Pixel Scroll 2/15/19 The Scroll’ll Come Out Tomorrow

(1) HAPPY INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY. Archive of Our Own linked to all kinds of activities honoring 5th annual International Fanworks Day, which is today. Here’s the first entry on their list –

1. What Fanworks Mean to Me: A couple of weeks ago, we sent out a call for essay contributions about what fanworks mean to you. Tomorrow, we’ll be posting selected essays from the submissions. If you missed your chance to send us an essay, don’t worry! You can always post on social media with the tag #IFD2019. Let people know how you feel and help spread the International Fanworks Day festivities.

(2) NOMMOS. Registered members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until April 30 to nominate for the Nommo Awards. The 2019 Nommo Awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2019.

(3) ARISIA. The Boston convention relocated from the Westin to another hotel at a time when a strike was in progress and it was anticipated many would refuse to cross a picket line. Arisia’s February corporate meeting minutes report:

The Westin has begun the process of contesting the cancellation of our 2019 contract with them.  Further steps will cost them money with little prospect of a return and we don’t know if they will follow through or if this is a negotiating tactic.

The meeting approved spending money for Arisia’s legal representation.

(4) MORE ON ZAK SMITH. The revelations about game author Zak Smith summarized here the other day (Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Item #2) have started a tsunami of reaction.

Pop Culture Uncovered has a thorough review: “Tabletop RPG Community Boycotts Zak Smith”.

…Although tackling toxicity in gaming from the grassroots level is essential, it’s important to remember that the industry must do something as well. From designers to publishers to social media admins, leaders and creators need to act. In this instance, that is precisely what happened.

Within a day of Morbid’s post, Smith was banned from most significant subreddits, like /r/rpg and /r/osr. He had long been blocked from many sites to the point of accusing places like RPG.net of hypocrisy and censorship, and now even more forums were closed to him.

The Gauntlet, one of the largest communities, podcasters, and RPG organizers were the next to respond, banning all of Smith’s games from their events and restricting discussion of him (or his products) on their forums. They even went as far as to cleanse their podcasts of interviews or promotions involving him and also warned conventions that thought about hosting him that they’d boycott them…

The Gauntlet’s said:

The Gauntlet will no longer provide coverage to Zak S or his publications. Due to the fact he has a history of harassing Jason and other members of The Gauntlet, we have had a longstanding ban on having him on our podcasts, and he has never been welcome in our community spaces. We will be extending that ban to any kind of coverage of, or participation in, his ttrpg work. […]

* We will not work with people who work with him. For example, Codex will not publish an artist or author who is actively working with him. Folks who have worked with him in the past must promise to not work with him again in order to have a professional relationship with The Gauntlet.
* Members of The Gauntlet organizational team will no longer attend conventions in our capacity as representatives of The Gauntlet so long as Zak S is welcome to attend those conventions. We will also strongly discourage our membership from attending such conventions.

Giant industry convention Gen Con was called on to take a stand – this is as far as they were willing to go.

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

Meanwhile, a ton of publishers have walked back things they’ve said in the past, and several of Zak’s defenders have walked back their statements, too. Some statements are stronger than others. Ken Hite’s statement is one of the better one, but it is by no means the only statement worth digging for.

Even Mike Mearls (who is the man in charge of D&D) made a (pathetically weak) statement on Twitter. He is (rightfully) getting roasted in the responses.

This is a storm that’s been brewing in tabletop gaming for a long while. Zak is one of a small number of high-profile missing stairs whose downfall I have been waiting for.

There is a thread on RPG.net’s Tangency board that has a ton more information about what’s going on, but you need to be a registered member to see Tangency (registration is free). That thread is here.

(5) SIGNAL BOOST. The latest edition of Alasdair Stuart’s “weekly pop culture enthusiasm download” Full Lid includes a wry commentary on “The Three Season Long Cold Open” of a popular TV series —

The Expanse begins in the final minutes of its third season. Which is a hyperbolic exaggeration on one hand and a salute to the sheer audacity of the first three seasons on the other. In the space of under 40 episodes the show has shifted from ‘traumatized survivors busk their way through a political scandal’ to ‘manufactured war between the planets’ to ‘first contact’ to ‘political intrigue’ to ‘welcome to the galaxy.’ Each progression has been baked into the DNA of what’s preceded it and the result is a show that’s followed a silky smooth trajectory out into new space. Alex Kamal would be proud. This leads to the final scene of season three making the show’s name it’s premise and fixing it’s previously somewhat broken leading man. This,excellent, recap video by Zurik 23M brings you up to speed 

You can catch up on the last six months of back issues at the Full Lid archive.

(6) ‘RITHM & BLUES. Lithium batteries can explode if you overcharge them. So can humans. Perhaps AIs should learn that latter lesson (Futurism: “Two Pricing AIs Went Rogue and Formed a Cartel to Gouge Humans”).

When the robot revolution comes, our new overlords may not be as benevolent as we’d hoped.

It turns out that AI systems can learn to gang up and cooperate against humans, without communicating or being told to do so, according to new research on algorithms that colluded to raise prices instead of competing to create better deals.

[…] “What is most worrying is that the algorithms leave no trace of concerted action — they learn to collude purely by trial and error, with no prior knowledge of the environment in which they operate, without communicating with one another, and without being specifically designed or instructed to collude,” the researchers behind the experiment said in a write-up.

(7) MY META OR YOURS? The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg’s “‘Doom Patrol’: TV Review” tells readers more about him than the new show.

Say what you will about DC Universe’s new superhero dramedy Doom Patrol — it’s a structural mess, but an improvement of epic proportions over DC Universe’s Titans — nobody will accuse it of not being in on the joke, whatever the joke happens to be.

In fact, it’s basically impossible to review Doom Patrol positively or negatively without insecurity that you might be falling right into the show’s aggressively meta trap. This is, after all, a show that has its perpetually wry narrator say that critics compared one of its main characters to “a poor man’s Deborah Kerr,” followed by, “Critics? What do they know? They’re gonna hate this show.” So is a positive review me trying to prove my coolness to DC and creator Jeremy Carver? Is a negative review proof that I’m just as predictable and dismissible as the show believes?

I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that no matter what the narrator might have expected, I don’t hate Doom Patrol. Whatever that means.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubt best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu. I’ll also single out his The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1927 Harvey Korman. I’m stretching genre to the beyond it’s breaking limiting as the roles I want to single out are him as Blazing Saddles as Hedley Lamarr and in High Anxiety as Dr. Charles Montague. He did actually do a SF role or two, mostly in series work. On The Wild Wild West, he was Baron Hinterstoisser in “The Night of the Big Blackmail”;  on The Munsters, he played the Psychiatrist in “Yes Galen, There Is a Herman”; and on that infamous Star Wars Holiday Special,  he appeared Chef Gormaanda, Krelman, and Toy Video Instructor. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas Hofstadter, 74. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 71. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an an annotated version called MetsMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
  • Born February 15, 1951 Jane Seymour, 68, whose full legal name is, to my considerable delight, Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. Her first significant genre role was in Frankenstein: The True Story as Agatha / Prima. I then see her as being in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as Princess Farah and then showing up in Somewhere in Time as Elise McKenna. (Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay.) I see her in the classic Battlestar Galactica as a character named Serina for a brief run. I think her last genre work was on Smallville as Genevieve Teague. 
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 48. Gabrielle, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse.

(9) ANTHROPOBOTIC. In the Washington Post, Jason Filliatrault, who tweets as @SarcasticRover pretending to be the “voice” of Curiosity, has an op-ed (“Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.”) where he says in Curiosity’s voice —

 There are better ways to say all of this, and I’m just a robot, and I know I don’t have the emotion or ability to express the truth about you. And even if, by some bizarre twist of fate, I was actually just a human who pretended to be a robot for as-yet-unknown reasons, I would still be so ill-equipped to tell the world how incredible you were.

(10) ANOTHER FAREWELL. From This Girl Codes — don’t read this ‘til you have a hanky ready:

(11) PROOF OF CONCEPT. BBC video shows how “Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris'”.

The British-led mission to test techniques to clear up space junk has demonstrated a harpoon in orbit.

The RemoveDebris satellite fired the projectile into a target board held at a distance on the end of a boom.

Video of the event shows the miniature spear fly straight and true, and with such force that it actually breaks the target structure.

But, importantly, the harpoon’s barbs deploy and hold on to the board, preventing it from floating away…

(12) CREDITS WHERE DUE. ScienceFiction.com introduces “The Opening Credits For ‘Good Omens’”.

…For fans of the source novel by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it is chock full of colorful imagery and Easter eggs and gives some amazing insight into the kind of tone and atmosphere the series is going for, not to mention giving us a taste of the kind of music the show will have. Plus, with the whole thing running around 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is quite a bit longer than most opening credits nowadays, it cements the fact that Gaiman is clearly doing the show his own way, with his own style, which may yield some very interesting and exciting results.

(13) THE SCOOP. The Disney Food Blog leads with this tasty news: “Toy Story 4 Ice Cream Flavors Hitting the Grocery Shelves! Will You Find Them in Your Store?” Two new Edy’s/Dreyer’s flavors are hitting shelves now —

Here’s the scoop on the two flavors: your choices are Carnival Churro Cravings and Chocolate Peanut Butter Prize Winner!

We can happily verify that they are hitting the shelves! At least, we’ve found them available at a grocery chain called Giant Eagle (with locations in Pennsylvania, primarily around Pittsburgh).

(14) COWL DISAVOWAL. Ben Affleck appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to explain why he isn’t Batman any more. Batman’s previously unknown connection with Tom Brady is discussed!

(15) RIGHT NOW, ROGER IS NOT VERY JOLLY. Sounds like the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise has everything except people who want to be involved with making the next one. Geoff Boucher, in “Disney’s ‘Pirates’ Reboot Uncertain As ‘Deadpool’ Writers Jump Ship” on Deadline, says it’s not clear if there is to be another movie because Johnny Depp will not be in the next installment and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been dropped from writing duties, and with no star and no script, it’s unclear what Disney has left for another Pirates film.  Boucher says there are rumors Disney wants to turn the franchise into a TV series.

The [Reese & Wernick] hiring was widely hailed and Bailey has been vocal in his excitement about it, telling reporters and colleagues that the scribes were going to “make Pirates punk rock again” and give the franchise a much-needed “kick in the pants” that would revive the off-kilter charisma the brand exuded in its early days. Those high hopes faded in recent weeks.

Disney insiders are divided about what happens next. Some say a search is already underway for viable replacement options, others say the once-proud flagship of Disney’s live-action fleet may be headed to dry-dock for good.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Paper Mario Bros. In My Notebook (Stop Motion)” on YouTube is a short video about what a Mario Bros. chase would be like in a two-dimensional notebook.

[Thanks to Meredith, Eric R. Franklin, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 1/30/19 The Rolling Infinity Stones

(1) MORE ALA HONORS. We linked the 2019 youth awards from the American Library Association the other day. Here are two more sets of awards and recommended reading lists from the ALA:

LITA: The LITA Excellence in Children’s and Young Adult Science Fiction Notable Lists. The link is to the 2019 iteration, which is the successor to the Golden Duck awards formerly given out at Worldcon. (LITA, the Library and Information Technology Association, is a division of ALA). The list has three categories:

  • Golden Duck List (Picture Books)
  • Eleanor Cameron List (Middle Grade Books)
  • Hal Clement List (Young Adult Books)

The 2019 list has lots of authors you’ve heard of including Greg Van Eekhout, Fonda Lee, Brandon Sanderson, and Will McIntosh.

And here’s the link to the 2018 list.

READING LIST: The Reading List is an annual list of recommended genre books put out by the Reference & User Services Association, another division of ALA. “Readers’ Advisory Experts Announce 2019 Reading List: Year’s Best in Genre Fiction for Adult Readers”. Here are the winners in the sff/h genre categories:

Fantasy

  • Foundryside: A Novel by Robert Jackson Bennett. Crown, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Horror

  • The Silent Companions: A Novel by Laura Purcell. Penguin Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Science Fiction

  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. A Tor Book, published by Tom Doherty Associates.

(2) PICARD. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment “Patrick Stewart teases return of Jean-Luc Picard, says new ‘Star Trek’ series ‘is a 10-hour movie'”, has an interview with Sir Patrick where he says he is playing Picard, that he thinks of his new Trek series “as a ten-hour movie” and that he will look younger (and not have a beard) than the Picard portrayed in the last episode of Star Trek:  The Next generation.”

Stewart elaborated on why he’s ready to boldly go back to Star Trek in our interview. “I agreed to a meeting with the people who were going to produce this new version of Star Trek only because I wanted to seriously and respectfully explain to them why I was turning the project down. I heard just enough to realize this was something very unusual, and I was intrigued. What I was afraid of was … this was going to be jokey, and I didn’t want to do that.’ I asked a lot of questions and the answers were all very satisfying.”

Naturally, Stewart declined to share any of those answers with us. But he did reveal a few tantalizing details. For starters, this new series will tell one long tale instead of Next Generation‘s episodic structure. “They are writing a 10-hour movie,” the actor says…

(3) 4 CAPTAINS, 4 CREWS. An IDW Star Trek miniseries will bring together characters from a quartet of Trek shows in the same comic pages (SYFY Wire: “Exclusive preview: Starfleet’s finest captains unite in IDW’s new Star Trek: The Q Conflict”). The story includes art for the cover of Issue 1 and five interior pages.

In a grand event that can only occur in the creative dimensions of the comic book realm, the brave Star Trek crews and gallant captains of The Next GenerationThe Original SeriesVoyager, and Deep Space 9 will converge in a new IDW mini-series to pool their resources and hold the galaxy together against insurmountable odds.

Written by the scribes of Star Trek: TNG: Mirror Broken, Scott Tipton & David Tipton, this bold six-part adventure premiering today is matched with soaring art by David Messina (The Bounce, Wonder Woman) and corrals this historic collection of charismatic Starfleet commanders for the first time.

(4) MIGNOGNA. Anime News Network’s post “‘Far From Perfect’: Fans Recount Unwanted Affection from Voice Actor Vic Mignogna” extensively documents examples of these charges, as well as additional criticisms of Mignogna’s alleged anti-Semitic statements.

…Where is the line for appropriate guest and attendee behavior and what should be done when it’s crossed?

These questions came to the forefront of social media these last weeks as rumors about convention guests and staff interactions with minors stopped being whispered and instead were shouted. A Twitter thread posted on January 16 accused dub voice actor Vic Mignogna of homophobia, rude behavior, and most concerning, making unwanted physical advances on female con-goers. The thread quickly spread with over 4,000 retweets at the time of this writing and over 400 comments, many relaying their own negative experiences, including unwanted and unsolicited physical affection from the Fullmetal Alchemist voice actor. As with any claims involving a person with a moderate fan following, Mignogna’s supporters were quick to attempt to discredit individuals’ claims or at the very least dispute the voice actor’s intentions behind kissing or hugging attendees unannounced.

…Mignogna also assured his fans that the statements being made wouldn’t be seriously considered by others in the business. His claim of course, wasn’t entirely baseless. Rumors about Mignogna’s alleged behavior toward con-goers and supposed outbursts at fellow voice actors and con staff have been shared within insider circles for over a decade. While researching this article, I kept learning of more conventions that supposedly “blacklisted” Mignogna from ever returning. Yet, any attempts to reach out to long-time staff for each event were met with silence. If the rumors were true, no one with any kind of power in the industry was willing to talk about it.

(5) CLARKESWORLD BOOKS. Neil Clarke is launching a translation-focused publishing imprint with Kickstarter funding, and its first book will be “A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight and Other Stories by Xia Jia”

 In 2014, we launched a Kickstarter campaign with the hope of expanding our content to include translated Chinese science fiction in every issue. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and not only did we successfully raise the funds to do so, but (over the next year) we also increased our subscriber base to continue the project indefinitely. With help from Storycom, we now have over forty translated stories under our belt. Recently, we began to wonder if there was more we could do to expand on this important work and create additional opportunities for authors seeking to have their work translated and published in English. 

…The focus of this campaign is to help us secure the funding to produce our debut book: A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight and Other Stories, the first English language collection by Xia Jia, an extremely talented author that I’ve had the pleasure of publishing seven times in Clarkesworld and various anthologies, including one of my earlier Kickstarter projects, Upgraded. I couldn’t be more pleased to have her collection serve as the introduction to our new imprint. 

(6) YA CONTROVERSY. Was Amélie Wen Zhao harassed into pulling her YA fantasy Blood Heir before publication, or did she make a wise decision?

Criticism of how race was treated, levied by readers of the book’s ARC, set off another YA tweetstorm. Caro Herrera’s review on Goodreads said:

…Speaking of this, let’s get to a really problematic scene in the story. I’m talking about the whole Katniss/Rue scene at the slave auction. Oh, sorry, I meant to say Ana/May. Yeah, that entire scene was lifted from Hunger Games, let’s be real. Small black child dies in the arms of the white MC, while the MC sings a song that she taught the child? Come on. We’ve seen this before, both in a book and on the big screen. I cringed the entire time I read this. And did I mention the SLAVE AUCTION? Where a BLACK CHILD is killed?

Let’s talk about diversity for a minute. I know the book is written by a WOC. As a WOC myself, I was excited to read this, and I love to support POC authors, especially women. But that doesn’t mean all POC get a pass when their books are problematic. And this book was problematic. As another reviewer has mentioned, all diverse characters were used as props or were evil, so…? How is this truly introducing diversity and accurate and/or positive representation into the story, as the author claimed in her foreword to want to do?

The tweetstorm phenomenon was counterattacked by Jesse Singal in a thread that starts here.

And The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher (“Amelie Zhao Learns To Love Big Brother”) thought it was a golden opportunity to lambast Social Justice Warriors once again:

Donald Trump didn’t destroy Amelie Wen Zhao’s dreams. People wearing #MAGA hats didn’t shame her into withdrawing her debut novel. Progressives on social media did. These people are the enemy. They colonized her mind, and caused her — a Chinese immigrant! — to hate herself. I hope that they haven’t broken her spirit. Orwell, in these final lines from 1984, understands what they’ve done to her…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 30, 1924 Lloyd Alexander. His most well-crafted work is The Chronicles of Prydain. Though drawn off Welsh mythology, they deviate from it in significant ways stripping it of much of its negativity.  To my belief, it is his only genre writing as I don’t hold the Westmark trilogy to actually be fantasy, just an an alternative telling of European history. Splitting cats hairs? Maybe. He was also one of the founders of Cricket, an illustrated literary journal for children. The late illustrator Trina Schart Hyman whose art I lust after, errrr, adore was another founder. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 30, 1926 Peter Brachacki. Set designer for the very first episode of Doctor Who. Everything I’ve been able to read on him and that work says that he was not at all interested in working on the series and did so reluctantly under orders. Doctor Who producer Verity Lambert would  later recount that she was impressed with Brachacki’s work on the TARDIS interior even though she personally did not like him at all. His design elements persist throughout the fifty years the series has been produced. His only other genre work that I’ve been able to find was Blake’s 7  and a short series called the The Witch’s Daughter done in the late Seventies. The BBC wasn’t always great at documenting who worked on what series.  (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 30, 1930 Gene Hackman, 89.  Let’s see… Lex Luthor in SupermanSuperman II and Superman IV: The Quest for PeaceYoung Frankenstein‘s Harold, The Blind Man and voiced General Mandible in the animated Antz film. 
  • Born January 30, 1937 Vanessa Redgrave, 82. I think her role of Guinevere in Camelot is her first genre role. Yes that’s a fantasy. From there I see she’s Lola Deveraux in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Max in Mission: Impossible, Robin Lerner in Deep Impact, Countess Wilhelmina whose The Narrator of Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story in which Jim Henson reworked the story to give it “a more ethical, humanist view”.  Really. Truly. She next shows in the adaptation of Cornelia Funke’s The Thief Lord as Sister Antonia. I’ve only got two series appearance for her, one on Faerie Tale Theatre as The Evil Queen in, surprise not, the “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” episode; the other on the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Mrs. Prentiss in the “London, May 1916” episode.
  • Born January 30, 1941 Gregory Benford, 78. His longest running series is Galactic Center Saga, a series I find a little akin to Saberhagen’s Beserker series. I’ve not read enough of it to form a firm opinion. Other novels I’ve read by him include Timescape (superb) and A Darker Geometry: A Man-Kzin Novel (Yes I do read Baen Books). 
  • Born January 30, 1955 Judith Tarr, 64. I’m fond of her Richard the Lionheart novels which hew closely to the historical record while introducing just enough magic to make them fantasy. The novels also make good use of her keen knowledge of horsemanship as well. Her Queen of the Amazons pairs the historical Alexander the Great, with a meeting with the beautiful Hippolyta, who is queen of the Amazons. Highly recommended.
  • Born January 30, 1963Daphne Ashbrook, 56. She played Grace Holloway in the Doctor Who film– a portrayal that upset some Whovians because she was the first companion to romantically kiss the Doctor, the Eighth Doctor in this case. She played the title character in “Melora”, an episode of Deep Space Nine.
  • Born January 30, 1974 Christian Bale, 45. First enters our corner of the mediaverse in a Swedish film called Mio in the Land of Faraway where he plays a character named  Yum Yum. Note though that he doesn’t speak in this role as his Swedish voice in done by Max Winerdah. So his playing Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his speaking role. Next up is American Psycho in which he was Patrick Bateman, that was followed by a role in Reign of Fire asQuinn Abercromby (shitty film, great cgi dragons). He was John Preston in Equilibrium, and hevoiced Howl in Howl’s Moving Castle, a film well worth seeing.  Need I say who he plays in Batman Begins? I thought not. He’d repeat that in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Amidst being Batman, he was also John Connor in Terminator Salvation. His last genre role to date was voicing Bagheera in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle asked off Kipling’s All the Mowgli Stories. He’s got a television genre credit, to wit Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island off the Robert Louis Stevenson of that name.

(8) LORD OF THE RINGOS? Peter Jackson is not going to just Let It Be says the Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The Beatles’ farewell documentary “Let It Be” is getting an encore, and a reinvention.

“Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson announced Wednesday that he is making a new film out of some 55 hours of footage — shot in January 1969 — that have never been seen by the public. The original movie, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, came out in 1970, soon after the Beatles broke up and has long been viewed as a chronicle of the band members growing apart. In a Rolling Stone interview given months after the film’s release, John Lennon recalled the making of “Let It Be” as a miserable experience.

But Jackson says the additional footage tells a very different story. “It’s simply an amazing historical treasure-trove,” he said. “Sure, there’s moments of drama — but none of the discord this project has long been associated with.”

(9) BATTLE BREW. Passport to Iron City transports visitors directly into the retro-futuristic world of Alita: Battle Angel, the upcoming 20th Century Fox film by Robert Rodriguez, James Cameron and Jon Landau, in advance of its February 14 opening. Guests can explore the movie’s Iron City, which has been recreated down to the last detail by the film’s production designers.

Live like a local in Iron City: join your team for exclusive drinks at the Kansas, the famous hunter-warrior watering hole, and explore the vibrant streets of Iron City, where you’ll interact with the City’s gritty residents and visit familiar landmarks, from the infamous cyborg scrapyards to the high-energy Motorball Stadium. Earn credits by completing puzzles and challenges, experiment with innovative technology, and uncover hidden clues to determine your fate.

This 12,000 square foot futuristic interactive playground will transport you to another world, unlike anything you’ve ever experienced!

Thematic beers have been created to accompany the event.

Three Weavers crafted a big, double dry-hopped wheat IPA called Berserker for the New York City event. For Austin, Three Weavers collaborated with Oskar Blues Brewery to create an eclectic pomegranate lime gosé named Badlands. And for their home city of Los Angeles, brewmaster Alexandra Nowell developed a fashionable lemon basil brut ale dubbed Panzer Kunst. Additional beers are available, including Three Weavers’ Expatriate IPA and Seafarer kölsch-style ale in Los Angeles and New York; and Three Weavers’ Seafarer kölsch-style ale and Oskar Blues’ Can-O-Bliss IPA in Austin.

(10) TWILIGHT ZONING OUT. Did John nap through the part where the alien creature tried to break off the edge of this wing?

(11) THE OUT LAWS OF ROBOTICS. NPR has the story: “A Robot Named ‘Tappy’: Huawei Conspired To Steal T-Mobile’s Trade Secrets, Says DOJ”.

The Justice Department unsealed two separate indictments of Chinese telecom device maker Huawei on Monday. But only one of them reads like the script of a slapstick caper movie.

That would be the one that describes the U.S. government’s case alleging that Huawei stole trade secrets from T-Mobile, the wireless service company.

In the indictment, the government says that between June 2012 and September 2014, Huawei repeatedly made efforts to steal information about the design of a T-Mobile robot. The robot’s name, adorably, is “Tappy.”

We would like to include a photo here of Tappy, but photographing the robot is expressly prohibited by T-Mobile, and Tappy is kept under very tight security in a lab at T-Mobile headquarters in Bellevue, Wash.

Tappy’s job is to test devices before they go to market. With a rubber-tipped robotic arm, it touches the device screen, imitating a human using the phone — while at the same time tracking problems, measuring how long tasks take to complete, and monitoring how much battery is drained by each task.

(12) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. Penguin Middle School will soon be publishing the second book in the Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat series:

Klawde is not your average cat. He’s an emperor from another planet, exiled to Earth. He’s cruel. He’s cunning. He’s brilliant… and he’s about to become Raj Banerjee’s best friend. Whether he likes it or not.

(13) ARCOLOGIES FOR REAL? Business Insider says that, “These billion-dollar cities are straight out of science fiction, and they will soon become a reality.” These arcologies seem to be straight out of Oath of Fealty, though maybe without MILLIE.

Cities may be a long way from hovercrafts and Hyperloops, but they’re slowly catching up to the visions of science fiction. 

Technologies that once seemed impossible, like driverless cars and drone taxis, are now popping up mega-developments around the world. 

By designing cities from scratch, nations like India, Saudi Arabia, and the US can accommodate new innovations in infrastructure and deliver services more efficiently to residents. 

(14) S.H.I.E.L.D. TEASER. How will the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. move on without Coulson? Here’s your first look at Season 6. The premiere episode, ‘Missing Pieces‘, is directed by Clark Gregg and written by Whedon and Tancharoen, and will air in July 2019 on ABC.

[Thanks to Linda Deneroff, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Galen Charlton, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, JJ. Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/19 Eight Files High

(1) SINGING ABOUT PEASPROUT CHEN. Lightspeed Magazine’s interview with Henry Lien brought out a fascinating musical connection —

You’re the first author I’ve interviewed who’s had a Broadway singer perform at the book launch for their debut novel. I watched the promotional video of the one and only Idina Menzel performing the theme song from the first book of your Peasprout Chen series, Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword, with you. That’s so cool! What’s the backstory? How did that happen?

We’re represented by the same agency, ICM. She got a hold of the advance reader copy of the first Peasprout Chen book and flipped over it. She asked ICM if they could arrange for her to meet me. After I finished screaming into my pillow, I said, “Oh, well, let me see if I can find a slot in my calendar to squeeze in lunch with Idina Freeggin’ Menzel.” Then I screamed into my pillow some more. We met and really hit it off. She has become a dear friend. So I asked her to sing the theme song for the book at the launch. She said yes. Then I died of shock, and thus am conducting this interview with you from the Beyond.

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to gobble goat cheese fritters with Scott H. Andrews while listening to Episode 87 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Scott H. Andrews, founder and editor and publisher of the online magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies, celebrated the 10th anniversary of that magazine by hosting a party at the recent World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore, Maryland — which made it seem like the right time for us to discuss that first decade. So we raised a pint at Red’s Table in Reston, Virginia.

Well, he raised a pint — of bourbon-barrel aged Gold Cup Russian Imperial Stout from Old Bust Head Brewery in Fauquier County, Virginia — while I downed my usual bottle of Pellagrino. And as we sipped, we chatted about that work on Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which has so far earned him six World Fantasy Award nominations and six Hugo Award nominations — and won him a British Fantasy Award. He’s a writer as well, with his own fiction appearing in Weird Tales, Space and Time, On Spec, and other magazines.

We discussed the treatment he received as a writer which taught him what he wanted to do (and didn’t want to do) as an editor, how his time as member of a band helped him come up with the name for his magazine, why science fiction’s public perception as a literary genre is decades ahead of fantasy, what it takes for a submission to rise to the level of receiving a rewrite request, the time he made an editor cry (and why he was able to do it), how he felt being a student at the Odyssey Writing Workshop and then returning as a teacher, the phrase he tends to overuse in his personalized rejection letters (and the reason why it appears so often), the way magazine editing makes him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian, why writers shouldn’t worry about the ratio of submitted stories to purchased ones, the reason he’ll probably never edit novels, what anyone considering starting a magazine of their own needs to know, and much more.

(3) GET ILLUMINATED. “Sacred Texts: Codices Far, Far Away” – Two University of Pennsylvania scholars are doing a series of videos about the ancient Jedi texts until Star Wars Episode 9 is released on December 20.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Luke Skywalker gathered a small library of ancient Jedi texts and placed them in an uneti tree on Ahch-To.

On October 8, 2018, Dr. Brandon Hawk and curator Dot Porter met to talk about these ancient books, and to compare them with manuscripts from the collection of the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania.

Here are the first two videos:

(4) NEW HORIZONS PHOTOS ARRIVING SLOWLY. “Nasa’s New Horizons: Best image yet of ‘space snowman’ Ultima Thule” – BBC had the story.

The New Horizons probe has sent back its best picture yet of the small, icy object Ultima Thule, which it flew past on New Year’s Day.

The image was acquired when the Nasa spacecraft was just 6,700km from its target, which scientists think is two bodies lightly fused together – giving the look of a snowman.

Surface details are now much clearer.

New Horizons’ data is coming back very slowly, over the next 20 months.

This is partly to do with the great distance involved (the separation is 6.5 billion km) but is also limited by the small power output of the probe’s transmitter and the size (and availability) of the receive antennas here on Earth. It all makes for glacial bit rates.

The new image was obtained with New Horizons’ wide-angle Multicolor Visible Imaging Camera (MVIC) and gives a resolution of 135m per pixel. There is another version of this scene taken at even higher resolution by the probe’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), but this has not yet been downlinked from the probe.

(5) RSR PRO ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender says, “Based on the discussion on File770, we did the experiment of expanding our Pro Artist list using the ISFDB info. This actually expands it hugely. We ended up not trying to merge the lists for this year, but we posted the ISFDB data separately just so people could have it as a resource. It’s awfully nice data, if a bit overwhelming, and it’d be great to find a good way to use it. We’re hoping people will look at it and offer some ideas for how to make it a bit more manageable.” — “Pro Artists from ISFDB Novels 2018”.

Based on some conversations on File 770 about better ways to find candidates for the Best Professional Artist Hugo Award, we decided to try using the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB) as a source.  The result is spectacular, but maybe a bit overwhelming, so we decided not to try to integrate it with our regular Pro Artists page this year. Instead, we’re treating this as an experiment and inviting feedback on how we might best use this wealth of data in the future to help people who’re trying to find professional artists to nominate.

(6) FRANKENSTEIN AND ROBOTS. In the Winter 2019 Beloit College Magazine, Susan Kasten (“Why Frankenstein Will Never Die”)  discusses how an English professor, an anthropologist, a physicist, and a professor of cognitive science team-taught Frankenstein in a class called “Frankenstein 200:  Monster, Myth, and Meme.”

Robin Zebrowski, a professor of cognitive science, pointed out that the themes of Frankenstein — of creation, difference, empathy, monstrosity, and control–are the memes of artificial intelligence.  Zebrowski pointed out that early robot stories are about Frankenstein.  ‘They’re about building something no one can control once it’s unleashed,’ she said.  She noted that the first work of literature ever written about robots–a 1923 Czech play called R.U.R.–is a story about a robot uprising.

(Incidentally, Professor Zebrowski believes she is not related to sff author George Zebrowski.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 25, 1915 — First transcontinental telephone call was made, between New York and San Francisco; Alexander Graham Bell and Dr. Thomas A. Watson exchanged greetings.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. His first first SF film have him as Dr. Dan Forbes in the 1953 The Magnetic Monster and as Dr. Ingersoll In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. The very next year, he plays James O’Herli in Riders to the Stars. And now we get to the film that you know him from — Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which he playsJack Belicec. After that, I show him only in Nothing Lasts Forever which has never been released here in the States. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Director of such such genre films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (the original of course), Poltergeist (damn scary film) Invaders from Mars and Djinn, his final film. He directed a smattering of television episodes including the “Miss Stardust” of Amazing Stories, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” of Freddy’s Nightmares, “Dead Wait” of Tales from the Crypt and the entire Salem’s Lot miniseries. He also wrote a horror novel with Alan Goldsher,  Midnight Movie: A Novel, that has himself in it at a speaking engagement. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1958Peter Watts, 61.Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. 
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 56. Butler published a number of works of which the most important is Four British fantasists : place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Another important work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website is here.
  • Born January 25, 1970 Stephen Chbosky, 49. Screenwriter and director best-known I’d say for the Emma Watson-fronted Beauty and the Beast. But he also was responsible for the Jericho series which was a rather decent bit of SF even if, like Serenity, it got killed far too quickly. (Yes, I’m editorializing.) 
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 46. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was over ambitious but really fun. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Michael Trevino, 34. Performer, Tyler Lockwood on The Vampire Diaries and now Kyle Valenti on the new Roswell, New Mexico series whose premises I’ll leave you to guess. His first genre appearance was in the Charm episode of “Malice in Wonderland” as Alastair. He also shows up on The OriginalsThe Vampire Diaries spin-off. 
  • Born January 25, 1985 Claudia Kim, 34. Only four film films but all genre: she played Dr. Helen Cho Avengers: Age of Ultron followed by voicing The Collective In Equals which Wiki manages to call a ‘dystopian utopia’ film to which I say ‘Eh?!?’, and then Arra Champignon in the 2017 version of The Dark Tower and finally as  Nagini, Voldemort’s snake which I presume is a voice role (though I’ve not seen the film so I could be wrong) in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Hulk’s last words? Bizarro has them.

(10) ASIMOV REFERENCE. Yesterday on Late Night With Stephen Colbert (at about the 1:50 mark) the host said during a sketch —

“My self-driving car has stopped taking me to Taco Bell…citing the first law of Robotics.”

(11) RE-DEEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] press release from Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias in Spain addresses the latest “deep image” from the Hubble Space Telescope. The original Hubble Deep Field was assembled in 1995, only to be exceeded by the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field in 2004 and the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Each imaged galaxies further away and thus further back in time. Now there’s a new version of the Ultra-Deep Field that recovers “additional light” not included in earlier versions and showing thus additional information about the included galaxies.

To produce the deepest image of the Universe from space a group of researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) led by Alejandro S. Borlaff used original images from the Hubble Space Telescope (HST taken over a region in the sky called the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field (HUDF). After improving the process of combining several images the group was able to recover a large quantity of light from the outer zones of the largest galaxies in the HUDF. Recovering this light, emitted by the stars in these outer zones, was equivalent to recovering the light from a complete galaxy (“smeared out” over the whole field) and for some galaxies this missing light shows that they have diameters almost twice as big as previously measured.

A scientific paper on the image and analysis is on ArXiv at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1810.00002.pdf (technically a preprint, but it has been accepted for publication by Astronomy & Astrophysics). The data itself is at http://www.iac.es/proyecto/abyss.

(11) NOW BOARDING. James Davis Nicoll knows how we love the number 5 here — “5 SFF Stories About Surviving the Dangers of Boarding School” at Tor.com.

As a setting, boarding schools allow for the construction of thrilling narratives: concerned parents are replaced by teachers who may well prioritize student achievement over student welfare, e.g. maximizing points for Gryffindor over the survival of the students earning those points…

Are there any SFF novels featuring boarding schools? Why yes! I am glad you asked—there are more than I can list in a single article. Here are just a few….

(12) BETTER TECH, MARK 0. Scientists have now deduced that “Neanderthals ‘could kill at a distance'”.

Neanderthals may once have been considered to be our inferior, brutish cousins, but a new study is the latest to suggest they were smarter than we thought – especially when it came to hunting.

The research found that the now extinct species were creating weaponry advanced enough to kill at a distance.

Scientists believe they crafted spears that could strike from up to 20m away.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead researcher Dr Annemieke Milks, from UCL Institute of Archaeology, said: “The original idea was that Neanderthals would have been very limited using hand-delivered spears, where they could only come up at close contact and thrust them into prey.

“But if they could throw them from 15m to 20m, this really opens up a wider range of hunting strategies that Neanderthals would have been able to use.”

Extension of the above — “Why we still underestimate the Neanderthals”.

Prof Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum, explains why some old assumptions about the intellectual capabilities of our evolutionary relatives, the Neanderthals persist today. But a body of evidence is increasingly forcing us to re-visit these old ideas.

A paper out this week in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution reports the early arrival of modern humans to south-western Iberia around 44,000 years ago.

Why should this be significant? It all has to do with the spread of our ancestors and the extinction of the Neanderthals. South-western Iberia has been claimed to have been a refuge of the Neanderthals, a place where they survived longer than elsewhere, but the evidence is disputed by some researchers.

The latest paper, which is not about Neanderthals, has been taken by some as evidence of an arrival into this area which is much earlier than previously known.

By implication, if modern humans were in south-western Iberia so early then they must have caused the early disappearance of the Neanderthals. It is a restatement of the idea that modern human superiority was the cause of the Neanderthal demise. Are these ideas tenable in the light of mounting genetic evidence that our ancestors interbred with the Neanderthals?

(13) LOST ART? This certainly seems symbolic of the government shutdown: “Shutdown Leaves Uninflated Space Sculpture Circling in Orbit” in the New York Times.

…“Orbital Reflector,” a sculpture by Trevor Paglen that was recently launched into orbit.

The sculpture is not lost in space as much as stuck in a holding pattern before activation, pending clearance by the Federal Communications Commission. According to the artist, it might not survive the wait while F.C.C. workers are on furlough.

A 100-foot-long mylar balloon coated with titanium oxide, “Orbital Reflector” was designed to be visible to the naked eye at twilight or dawn while in orbit for a couple of months. It would then incinerate upon entering the Earth’s thicker atmosphere.

But although it was sent to space, the balloon was never inflated as planned.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Mlex, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 1/17/19 While I Just Sit At Home And Pixelate

(1) RECONCILIATION AT ARISIA. When Arisia, the controversy-plagued Boston convention, takes place this weekend they plan to face up to their troubles with a Reconciliation track of 15 program items —

Arisia 2019 will offer a special Programming track called “Reconciliation”. These sessions will provide attendees opportunities to communicate about recent events involving the Arisia community, the convention itself, and Arisia, Inc. (our parent corporation).

Sessions use several approaches, allowing space for our community’s diversity. These methods range from silent work an attendee can do with trained facilitators, to town-hall discussions allowing community members to share their feelings, reactions and desire for change. We will also have a set of “chill out” programming for people who want to decompress after this kind of emotional labor as well as training and workshops for people who want to contribute to making change happen and being part of rebuilding our community.

Arisia will be collecting all feedback given by attendees at the sessions listed below, and will attempt to address salient items at the State of Arisia Community Update on Monday. Arisia Leadership from both the Convention and Corporation will be in Feedback sessions to provide our community the opportunity to talk directly with them.

You can learn about the backstory by reading File 770’s posts tagged “Arisia”.  

(2) RSR’S POLL INFO RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong has created a central place to find ballots for SF/F awards that are open to all or open to members (of associations or conventions). It has links to ballots, shows due dates, links to RSR resources to help with voting such as longlists with story blurbs and scores and covers. http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/2018-best-sff.html

Here are the ones currently open for voting.

Open to All

Coming soon are Clarkesworld, Apex, and the Locus Awards.

Open to Members

The info will be updated as ballots for some awards close and others open.

Also of interest to fans is the Best SF/F section (below the SF/F Ballots), which if you expand it, shows the progress of the various award finalists + winners, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers recommendations that contribute to the score of each story. Currently, the scores are 32% complete, based on 0/26 awards announced, 1/7 year’s best anthologies TOCs shared, and 14/14 reviewers posted. The table shows expected dates for each award and year’s best, and the story scores will be updated with each release. Clicking on a completed award/year’s best/reviewer link will highlight the stories whose score was increased by that award/year’s best/reviewer.

(3) A SWING AND A MISS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Glass’ Is Leaden”.

Again and again, in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass — the sequel to 2016’s Split, which was itself a stealth sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable — there are moments that should, by any reasonable measure, work. In the language of superhero films, they’re now-familiar turns of phrase that can be depended upon — and often have been depended upon — to elicit a jolt of adrenaline in the eager viewer.

Take the moment, late in the film, when a character heralds his return to super-form by finding a singular component of his old costume. Everything about the shot is set up to punch our buttons: The figure stands in stark silhouette. It’s filmed from a low, Spielbergian angle. The costume component in question unfurls with a dramatic snap and rustle painstakingly engineered by some hardworking Foley artist somewhere in Burbank, probably. The music swells to an insistent crescendo.

And yet … nothing.

Or the scene where another character dramatically intones his comic-book codename, then employs a [SOMETHING] to [ACT UPON] someone; and then — in case we missed it (we didn’t), we cut back to that previous shot of said character pronouncing his comic-book codename, which … oh, ha ha ha … we now realize, cheekily references the [SOMETHING]. (No spoilers.)

In any other film, that moment would provide the proceedings with a sardonic punch. Here, it’s just flat seltzer.

(4) YOLEN WINS AWARD. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators today announced the 2019 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards, and sff author Jane Yolen was one of the winners. [Via Locus Online.]

Young Adult Fiction:

Jane Yolen – MAPPING THE BONES (Philomel)

Influenced by Dr. Mengele’s sadistic experimentations, this story follows twins as they travel from the Lodz ghetto, to the partisans in the forest, to a horrific concentration camp where they lose everything but each other.

(5) MOVIE ABOUT JRR COMING TO THEATERS. From SYFY Wire we learn “Tolkien getting summer release”:

Tolkien, the biopic about The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, has had everything lined up as fans continue to buzz about the upcoming Amazon series based on his Lord of the Rings series. Now fans can mark on their calendars that director Dome Karukoski’s biopic will hit screens this summer on May 10.

(6) GARCIA PODCAST. Chris Garcia’s film journal “Klaus at Gunpoint” has a new podcast out — “Fantasy Film 101 – Willow”.

(7) IT’S A JOLLY HOLIDAY WITH MARY. This is too effing much – Mary Poppins: Post-Brexit from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

A spoonful of sugar helps the withdrawal from the European Union go down.

(8) ABANDONED. James Davis Nicoll discusses “SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths” at Tor.com.

Space colonization stories are a subgenre of SF. Space colonization stories in which the Earth has become a backwater world, cut off from thriving colony planets, are a thriving sub-subgenre.

At first glance, this seems odd. Earth is rich in resources and offers humans a shirt-sleeve environment . Why wouldn’t it continue to be the leader of the pack?

Sometimes it’s because we have trashed the Earth, rendering it uninhabitable….

(9) BARRETT OBIT. New Zealand fan Mervyn Barrett died January 16 in Wellington. At various times Barrett was active in the Melbourne MSFC, London, and New Zealand fandoms. He’s credited with organizing the first New Zealand sf convention. He was 86. One of his claims to fame was this article  about the night the Melbourne club almost burned down (from the 1975 Aussiecon program book).

…Anyhow, it was because of the activities of the film group that the Melbourne Science Fiction Club almost burnt down. I’d started the group and used to run it: hustling films and running the little Ampro 16mm projector. When I left, Paul Stevens took over the group and did all sorts of enterprising things like renting proper cinemas so that 35 mm films could be shown and stuff like that. Then, some time later, when an enthusiast who happened to own a couple of 35 mm film projectors joined the club, they installed these in the clubroom and started showing classic old movies – some of them on nitrate film. Mervyn Binns had complete confidence in the projectionist and the equipment. “This guy really knew what he was doing.” He told me, but the introduction of nitrate film into the clubroom was just too much for one of the members, who had the clubroom inspected by the Health Department and closed down as a fire hazard. Admittedly nitrate film has one or two unfortunate characteristics like becoming unstable with age and being just plain highly inflammable and becoming downright explosive. But even when this is coupled with the fact that the clubroom was on the top floor of a 90-year-old brick building with wooden floors, roof, ceilings and staircases, that it had no fire escape and that its only entrance was through a narrow wooden staircase (which McGill’s grudgingly allowed to be used when the lift was finally taken out of commission when the Melbourne Water Board decided it was no longer an economical proposition to go to the trouble of supplying compressed water for it) one still has difficulty seeing the reason for his excessive nervousness….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 — The Ray Bradbury-penned “The Electric Grandmother” premiered on television.
  • January 17, 1992Freejack premiered in theaters with Mick Jagger as the bad guy.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix,  the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes.(Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 88. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in the role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you the the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 70. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming”  in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000.
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 57. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler, then there’s the The Truman Show which has stretches genre boundaries I think, may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?, and is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind genre?,  who’s seen Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events?, Horton Hears a Who!  (FUN!), A Christmas Carol  of which I know nothing, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (well it sounds cute) and, I’m not you, Sonic the Hedgehog. Busy, isn’t he?
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 49. Russian-American animator, director, producer, screenwriter, storyboard artist, comic book writer and artist. Yeah he really is. Hell he created Star Wars: Clone Wars! And let me list some of the many other things he’s involved in: Batman: The Animated SeriesIron Man 2Hotel TransylvaniaDuck DodgersThe Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Luke Cage series as Cage! and the Dexter’s Laboratory series as well.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 30. Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX. She also voices the character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She was the first woman of color to be cast in a leading role in the Star Wars franchise, something she should be proud of.

(12) CHOOSE YOUR OWN BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE. Physics professor Gaurav Khanna advises Daily Beast readers: “Traveling to Another Dimension? Choose Your Black Hole Wisely.”

One of the most cherished science fiction scenarios is using a black hole as a portal to another dimension or time or universe. That fantasy may be closer to reality than previously imagined.

My team at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a colleague at Georgia Gwinnett College have shown that all black holes are not created equal. If the black hole like Sagittarius A*, located at the center of our own galaxy, is large and rotating, then the outlook for a spacecraft changes dramatically. That’s because the singularity that a spacecraft would have to contend with is very gentle and could allow for a very peaceful passage.

(13) BREW TWO. What if the world can’t wake up in the morning? “World’s coffee under threat, say experts”.

The first full assessment of risks to the world’s coffee plants shows that 60% of 124 known species are on the edge of extinction.

More than 100 types of coffee tree grow naturally in forests, including two used for the coffee we drink.

Scientists say the figure is “worrying”, as wild coffee is critical for sustaining the global coffee crop.

About one in five of the world’s plants is threatened with extinction, and the 60% figure is an “extremely high” one.

“If it wasn’t for wild species we wouldn’t have as much coffee to drink in the world today,” said Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable.”

(14) ONE STEP AT A TIME. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The article title very much overstates the state of the art (Wired: “Bio-Printers Are Churning out Living Fixes to Broken Spines”; partial paywall), but it does appear that an incremental advance has been made toward that goal. In one experiment, partial mobility was restored to a rat’s paralyzed hindquarters after a multistep boiprinted device was inserted into a severed section of spinal cord.

For doctors and medical researchers repairing the human body, a 3D printer has become almost as valuable as an x-ray machine, microscope, or a sharp scalpel. Bioengineers are using 3D printers to make more durable hip and knee joints, prosthetic limbs and, recently, to produce living tissue attached to a scaffold of printed material.

Researchers say that bio-printed tissue can be used to test the effects of drug treatments, for example, with an eventual goal of printing entire organs that can be grown and then transplanted into a patient. The latest step toward 3D-printed replacements of failed human parts comes from a team at UC San Diego. It has bio-printed a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

[…] Bio-printers use a computer-guided pipette to layer living cells, referred to as bio-ink, on top of one another to create artificial living tissue in a laboratory. Most bio-printers can only print down to 200 microns, but this group developed a method of producing tissue down to 1 micron, Chen says. This higher resolution meant they were able to more accurately reconstruct the mixture of gray and white matter that makes up the spinal cord.

(15) AS TIME GOES BY. At Factor Daily, Gautham Shenoy takes an overview of the history of sff in China in “Telling the China Story: The Rise and Rise of Chinese Science Fiction”

It wasn’t until the 1950s – after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 – that science fiction would see a resurgence, albeit for a brief period. And then too written primarily for children, or to popularise science, as a vehicle for propaganda, and with a lot of translations of Russian books and influenced heavily by science fiction from the Soviet Union before the relationship soured. Notable works of Chinese science fiction by Chinese authors from this period are A Tour of the Solar System  by Zhang Ren and the adventure tale of three Chinese children stealing a spaceship to go off on an adventure, From Earth to Mars as also the space-colonisation story,  Builders of Mars by Zheng Wenguang, an author who would fall out of favour with the establishment during the Cultural Revolution and exiled, much like the genre itself, with anything remotely suspected of bearing a similarity to ‘western culture’, not least capitalism, being regarded as harmful.

(16) ROBOTS CANNED. SYFY Wire can hardly believe it, but “Countless robots have been ‘fired’ by a Japanese hotel that is largely run by them”.

One might think that robots would have some measure of job security, especially when they work in a robot hotel. It would seem that this is not the case — even in a robot hotel, robots, replicants, and androids can be “retired.” 

According to The Verge, the Henn-na “Strange” Hotel in Japan has “laid off” half of the 243 robots that maintained the hotel because they created more problems than they ended up solving. In trying to substitute robots for human workers, the hotel ended up creating more work for humans. As advanced as the hotel’s robot velociraptors that worked the check-in desk were, they couldn’t figure out how to properly photocopy a passport. Nothing in the previous sentence was a joke. 

On the list for early retirement is Churi, a robot doll assistant that was placed in each room. Churi was meant to be a kind of Siri/Alexa hybrid, but proved incapable of answering any questions…

(17) THE MARTIAN OENOPHILES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Georgia—no, not the American state—is looking for grape varieties that might survive on Mars. Because, you know, colonists will want to relax with some wine (Smithsonian: “Why the Nation of Georgia Wants to Make Wine on Mars”). I mean, potatoes alone just aren’t going to cut it.

“Researchers there are looking for grape varieties that can grow in Martian soil and survive high radiation and carbon monoxide.”

When and if humanity establishes a colony on Mars, it’s likely someone will want to kick back after a hard day of terraforming with a nice glass of Chardonnay. Luckily, the nation of Georgia has them covered. Amie Ferris-Rotman at The Washington Post reports the nation is funding a research project to develop varieties of wine grapes that can survive on the Red Planet.

So why is a small country in the Caucasus spending its resources on space wine? The most recent archaeological evidence suggests that the oldest known wine making in the world took place in the region 8,000 years ago, pegging Georgia as the birthplace of vino. Logically so, Georgia wants to keep that title on other planets as well.

“If we’re going to live on Mars one day, Georgia needs to contribute,” Nikoloz Doborjginidze, founder of Georgia’s Space Research Agency, part of the wine project tells Ferris-Rotman. “Our ancestors brought wine to Earth, so we can do the same to Mars.”

(18) NEW SFF SATIRE. Space Force: Steve Carell will star in a new Netflix series from The Office’s Greg Daniels lampooning Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force. (Via io9.)

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ken Richards.]

Pixel Scroll 1/14/19 Baby, It’s Cthulhu Outside

(1) MICHELLE YEOH TREK SPINOFF. The Hollywood Reporter brings us additional details on one of the several Star Trek spinoffs (the existence of which leaked as far back as November) in the works (“‘Star Trek’: Michelle Yeoh-Led ‘Discovery’ Spinoff Details Revealed”).

Riding the high of a Critics’ Choice Award win for best comedy, Michelle Yeoh has further reason to celebrate Monday.

CBS All Access has officially tapped Yeoh to captain a Star Trek series of her own: a black ops-themed spinoff of Discovery in which the actress will reprise her role and explore the next chapter in the life of Capt. Philippa Georgiou. The untitled drama will further explore Starfleet’s Section 31 division, a shadow organization within the Federation featured on Star Trek: Discovery.

[…] “Michelle has shattered ceilings, broken boundaries and astonished us with her grace and gravitas for decades. As a human, I adore her. As an actor, I revere her,” [producer Alex] Kurtzman said. “Erika [Lippoldt] and [Bo Yeon Kim] are remarkable, exciting writers who bring a fresh perspective to the world of Star Trek, and we’re all thrilled to explore the next wild chapter in the life of Captain Philippa Georgiou.”

(2) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES. Kotaku covers the auto arsonist who struck at Anime Los Angeles this weekend: “Suspected Cosplay Stalker Destroys Seven Cars During Anime Con”.

A suspected arson attack, allegedly carried out by an “obsessed stalker”, has torched seven cars in the parking lot of a hotel where Anime Los Angeles attendees have been staying over the weekend.

The incident took place early on Sunday morning, just before 2am. The night manager of the Azure Hotel & Suites in Ontario, California told ABC News that surveillance footage “showed a man walk up to the main vehicle, pour two cans of gasoline all over it and then [flick] a match on it”.

That car belonged to cosplayer Julia Moreno Jenkins, who says her vehicle was “targeted and set on fire by an obsessed stalker”. Once it was in flames, the fire then spread to nearby cars. As a precaution, the hotel was evacuated….

(3) YOU DON’T SPIT INTO THE WIND. Maybe they won’t be suing Cory Doctorow after all — “Start-up Bird backs down in electric scooter legal row”.

A scooter firm has apologised after issuing a journalist with legal threats over a blogpost about its scooters.

Start-up Bird offers electric scooters in around 40 US cities, which are hired via an app.

Bird accused Cory Doctorow of copyright infringement for linking to a forum about a device which enables abandoned scooters, bought at auction, to be fitted with a new motherboard.

This means they can then be used without the Bird app.

Mr Doctorow’s blogpost, published on the website Boing Boing, was about the number of Bird scooters that are being abandoned or badly parked, then removed by local authorities and legitimately sold.

It described a $30 (£23) motherboard which replaces the scooters’ existing hardware but does not alter either the hardware or software installed by Bird.

A spokesperson told the BBC Bird’s legal team had “overstretched” in issuing a takedown request.

Doctorow posted Bird’s lawyer letter at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

(4) FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY. Neil Clarke unveiled Mack Sztaba’s cover and the table of contents for his The Eagle Has Landed collection, to be released in July.

On July 20, 1969, mankind made what had only years earlier seemed like an impossible leap forward: when Apollo 11 became the first manned mission to land on the moon, and Neil Armstrong the first person to step foot on the lunar surface.

The Eagle Has Landed collects the best stories written in the fifty years since mankind first stepped foot on the lunar surface, serving as a shining reminder that the moon is and always has been our most visible and constant example of all the infinite possibility of the wider universe.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Bagatelle by John Varley
  • The Eve of the Last Apollo by Carter Scholz
  • The Lunatics by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Griffin’s Egg by Michael Swanwick
  • A Walk in the Sun by Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Waging Good by Robert Reed
  • How We Lost the Moon by Paul McAuley
  • People Came From Earth by Stephen Baxter
  • Ashes and Tombstones by Brian Stableford
  • Sunday Night Yams at Minnie and Earl’s by Adam Troy Castro
  • Stories for Men by John Kessel
  • The Clear Blue Seas of Luna by Gregory Benford
  • You Will Go to the Moon by William Preston
  • SeniorSource by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • The Economy of Vacuum by Sarah Thomas
  • The Cassandra Project by Jack McDevitt
  • Fly Me to the Moon by Marianne J. Dyson
  • Tyche and the Ants by Hannu Rajaniemi
  • The Moon Belongs to Everyone by Michael Alexander and K.C. Ball
  • The Fifth Dragon by Ian McDonald
  • Let Baser Things Devise by Berrien C. Henderson
  • The Moon is Not a Battlefield by Indrapramit Das
  • Every Hour of Light and Dark by Nancy Kress
  • In Event of Moon Disaster by Rich Larson

(5) FANHISTORY. Steven H Silver reminisces about “The Golden Age of Science Fiction: Lou Tabakow” at Black Gate, a long resume of the conventions he founded. I’d also like to mention what impressed me about Lou Tabakow. By the time I encountered him in the mid-1970s yes, he was a vaunted fanpolitician and Secret Master of Fandom, yet he was always interested in how to bring more people into fandom and share what was going on. That not as common a trait as you’d expect among fans.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 2005 — The first probe to land on Saturn’s moon, Titan, signaled it survived its descent. The Huygens space probe was designed to last only minutes on Titan’s surface, but surpassed the expectations of mission managers. Huygens descended the atmosphere, contacted the surface, and transmitted for at least an hour and a half.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1921Kenneth Bulmer. Oh my god. I couldn’t possibly summarise him if I tried. Looking through his list of writing that I know that I have read some Astor New Writings in SF and I reasonably sure that those Antares novels sound awfully familiar. So what have y’all read of him? (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 70. Screenwriter, director and producer. He is best known as co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark (one of my favorite films of all time), Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Solo: A Star Wars Story. He directed SF horror film  Dreamcatcher which was based on a novel by Stephen King and by a William Goldman screenplay. 
  • Born January 14, 1962Jemma Redgrave, 57. Her her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. 
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 55. He got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost  followed by by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Game of Thornes, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. 
  • Born January 14, 1974Kevin Durand, 45. Jason Woodrue In the forthcoming live Swamp Thing series on the DC Universe service (that’s me jumping up and down!). Previous genre roles include as The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Little John In Robin Hood, Mogadorian Commander In I am Number Four, Ricky in Real Steel, Emil Pangborn In The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Cesar Tan In Winter’s Tale
  • Born January 14, 1990Grant Gustin, 29. Actor, known as The Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode of A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well that’s it as Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yoda offers some seasonal advice at Half Full.

(9) IS HOMER IN THE MCU NOW? Thanos paid a visit to The Simpsons with predictable—yet unpredictable—results (Inverse: “Only One ‘Simpsons’ Character Survived Thanos on Sunday”). The Big Guy added a new “stone” to his gauntlet and used it to lay low most of the Simpson family in the introduction to the episode.

Thanos wants to wipe out half the known universe in the pursuit of perfect balance, but he has a (very toxic) soft spot. In a guest appearance on The Simpsons on Sunday, the villain of Avengers: Infinity War used the Infinity Stones to wipe away most of the Simpsons family, except for one.

In the “couch gag” for the Sunday premiere of Season 30, Episode 12 of The Simpsons, Jim Starlin’s Thanos occupies the Simpsons family couch and uses his Infinity Gauntlet to wipe out most the Simpsons family.

(10) A LIST TO THINK ABOUT. Nerds of a Feather’s contributors have assembled the “2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 1: Fiction Categories”. A nice set of cover galleries accompany the picks.

…The rules for inclusion were simple–just: (a) meet the eligibility criteria; and (b) be “award worthy” (i.e. good). Given the subjectivity of the latter, it should come as no surprise that the selections on our longlist reflect the spectrum of tastes, tendencies and predilections found among our group of writers. You’ll find selections ranging from the obscure and literary to the unabashedly popular and commercial, and from all corners and subdivisions of the genresphere.

That said, this is not nor intends to be a comprehensive survey of the field. Some books that are undoubtedly “award worthy,” for example, are absent for the simple reason that we haven’t read them yet. Thus we encourage you to think of this as a list of candidates to consider–alongside others…. 

(11) R.O.U.S. Ars Technica: “Rodents of Unusual Size—Meet the invasive, orange-toothed pests of coastal erosion”. A new nature documentary makes a callback to The Princess Bride—in its title, at least. Nutria. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.

…Back in the early 20th century long before environmental changes imminently threatened the state’s natural resources, Louisiana still needed more industry. So businessmen like EA McIlhenny (of the Tabasco family, yes) had an idea. Argentina has this abundance of these large, furry creatures called nutria, what if we acquired some?

The concept seemed solid: raise ‘em on a fur farm, skin ‘em for the pelts, and then export hats, jackets, and other fine furs to make a pretty penny. And for a long time, the scheme worked—even Sophia Loren once wore nutria, and the industry for Louisiana trappers peaked around $15 million in annual revenue. But as animal rights became more of a mainstream concept, the popularity of fur drastically decreased. Suddenly, folks in Southern Louisiana didn’t have the same motivation, and nutria quietly built out a larger population within their new habitat.

This, to put it lightly, had consequences. In the ’70s and ’80s when the fur game started drying up, Rodents of Unusual Size estimates 25 million invasive nutria occupied Southern Louisiana. Unfortunately, the rats tend to devastate their immediate environment, eating anything green in sight and uprooting plants in the process, which makes a plot of land more at risk to the natural forces of coastal erosion….

(12) SHORT FICTION REVIEWS. Charles Payseur catches up with “Quick Sips – Anathema #6”:

So I might have missed when this latest issue of Anathema dropped on the last day of the year. My apologies! I’m super glad I caught it, though, because it’s an amazing bunch of stories, featuring six different works that explore grief, loss, and a palpable powerlessness. The characters are dealing with things that cannot be changed (or that seem like they cannot be changed) and finding out what they can do about it. That sometimes means learning how to accept things and try to move on, though that’s complicated by grief, by pain, and by the fear of losing more. It’s an emotional and often devastating read, and I’ll get right to those reviews!

(13) OUT OF THE MAZE AND INTO THE BOX. “Rosa Salazar: From ‘Abbreviated’ ‘Bird Box’ Role to James Cameron’s ‘Alita'”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The apocalypse has been good to Rosa Salazar.

After dystopic turns in the Divergent and Maze Runner franchises, the 33-year-old actress was most recently seen in Bird Box, Netflix’s foray into the end times. While the movie has since reached hit status (more than 45 million views in its first week, according to the streamer), she was hesitant to sign on.

“I felt like I had been there and done that,” she explains. But Bird Box was an opportunity to work with some of her “idols,” like star Sandra Bullock, and Salazar ultimately joined after director Susanne Bier offered to add more of a backstory for her character, who was not in the original Josh Malerman novel.

(14) A STORY ABOUT RAY BRADBURY. Mr. Sci-Fi shares a story Ray Bradbury told him personally — about the time he met Laurel and Hardy. And Space Command is off to London to meet with Netflix!

(15) SPILL THE BEANS. Supermarket News says “Giant/Martin’s, Stop & Shop begin robot rollout”.

Ahold Delhaize USA plans to deploy robots to nearly 500 Giant Food Stores, Martin’s and Stop & Shop locations to help improve in-store efficiencies and safety.

The company’s Retail Business Services (RBS) arm said Monday that the rollout, slated to continue through the early part of 2019, comes after successful store pilots of the technology. The initiative stems from a partnership between RBS and retail automation and robotics provider Badger Technologies, a division of Jabil.

Named “Marty,” the robots are being used to flag hazards — such as liquid, powder and bulk food-item spills — and report when corrective action is needed. RBS said the robots help stores reduce the risk caused by such spills, freeing up store associates to spend more time serving customers.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “If You Can” on Vimeo, Hanna Rybak animates an inspiring quote by WInston Churchill.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, David Doering, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/13/19 It’s A Long Scroll That Has No Turning

(1) STOKER DEADLINE. Horror Writers Association Member Recommendations for the Bram Stoker Awards close on January 15, 2019 11:59 p.m. PST. Administrators warn that no recommendations will be accepted after the dates and times listed.

(2) NAILING DOWN THE DATE. The Minneapolis convention Convergence is moving to the Fourth of July, for reasons explained in a press release.  

…As our community knows, the Convergence Events, Inc. Board of Directors has chosen to move CONvergence from the DoubleTree Bloomington to the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis starting with our twenty-first convention on July 4th – 7th, 2019.  

Due to conditions outside of the Board of Directors’ control, this decision had to be made quickly in order to secure the location for the next five years.  This has resulted in possible convention dates outside our normal convention dates. To do otherwise would have resulted in additional moves to other hotels, more extreme date changes, and/or limited convention space and events.

(3) JEMISIN HIGHLIGHT. The New York Times Magazine features “New Sentences: From N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Ones Who Stay and Fight’”.

N.K. Jemisin’s story “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” takes place in a near-utopia in which everyone is equally valued. Some curious residents, however, cannot resist the urge to eavesdrop on a very different world — one in which inequality is rife and violence is widespread and justice does not prevail: our world. They listen to our radio and watch our TV and tap into our social media. In doing so, they glean information about our ways. This knowledge infects them like a virus. They know there will be severe consequences. And yet the information-gleaners, like info-gleaners everywhere, cannot bring themselves to stop.

(4) GAIMAN READING LE GUIN. Brain Pickings offers a feast of poetry: “Neil Gaiman Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s Ode to Timelessness to His 100-Year-Old Cousin”.

When my good friend and fellow poetry lover Amanda Palmer asked me to send a poem for her husband, Neil Gaiman, to read to his 100-year-old cousin, Helen Fagin — the Holocaust survivor who composed that arresting letter to children about how books save lives — I chose a poem by one of Neil’s dear friends, Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929–January 22, 2018), found in her final poetry collection, So Far So Good (public library) — one of the loveliest books of 2018.

Amanda immortalized this sweet and rather profound moment in a short video, shared here with the kind permission of everyone involved:

(5) DIABETES RESEARCH AND EDUCATION FUNDRAISER. SFF writer Christopher Rowe is a Clarion West graduate, a SFWA member, and has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Seiun Awards. He emailed: “I was recently (on December 10th, 2018) diagnosed with what was described to me as a ‘dangerously out of control’ case of Type 2 Diabetes. I’ve had to make a lot of life adjustments because of this, as you might imagine. One thing I’m doing is training for the 62-mile leg of the Kentucky edition of this year’s Tour de Cure, an annual fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.”

Rowe’s Tour de Cure page adds:   

I used to be an active road cyclist in and around Central Kentucky, riding from my home in downtown Lexington. But that was years ago, and my beautiful Lemond Tourmalet bicycle has been gathering dust in my workshop for too long to recount.

But I had already decided that 2019 would be the year I return to the road even before I received my diagnosis, and the commitment I have made to taking control of my condition, and to sustained, disciplined self-management through exercise, diet, and scrupulous attention to my healthcare team’s advice, including taking medications, dovetails perfectly with the Tour de Cure.

Please consider making a donation to the American Diabetes Association’s crucial research and educational efforts through this webpage.

I have a ways to go before I’m in the physical shape I’ll need to be in to complete the Tour. We have a ways to go before any of us can rest easy about diabetes. But we’ll get there.

Rowe is already getting strong support from the sff community, and could use lots more: “Quite a few sf/fantasy folks–mainly writers and editors–have donated so far. My colleagues in George RR Martin’s Wild Cards Consortium have been especially generous, and there are more people whose names File 770 readers would recognize if they hadn’t chosen to donate anonymously. I have set myself quite a task with a goal of raising $10,000 by June 1st, but I believe I can do it.”

(6) GAME OF THRONES TEASER. A glimpse of Season 8 of Game of Thrones in “Crypts of Winterfell.”

(7) LASH OBIT. Comics creator Batton Lash died January 12 of brain cancer. He was 65. His wife, Jackie Estrada, said “He died in our home accompanied by friends, family, and caregivers. We have no plans for services yet, but at some point we will have celebrations of life in both San Diego and New York.”

Lash’s Wikipedia entry notes:

He is best known for the series Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (aka Supernatural Law), a comedic series about law partners specializing in cases dealing with archetypes from the horror genre, which ran as a strip in The National Law Journal, and as a stand-alone series of comic books and graphic novels. He received several awards for his work, including an Inkpot Award, an Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Award, an Eisner Award, and nominations for two Harvey Awards.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1933Ron Goulart, 86. First I must acknowledge that he is very prolific and uses many pseudonyms  to wit Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Eeek!) you did the see Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that the I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he’s prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? 
  • Born January 13, 1943 Richard Moll, 76. Ahhh though I remember him best from Night Court that’s not genre, but I’ve found that he voiced Harvey Dent aka Two-Face on Batman: The Animated Series with other appearances on Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyMork & MindyFantasy IslandJurassic: Stone AgeHeadless HorsemanScary Movie 2The Flintstones and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 74. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced a brilliant fantasy trilogy, the House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black Mountain, The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes. Her other main work, and it is without doubt truly brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends. I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. 
  • Born January 13, 1947 Peter Elson. Illustrator whose life was far too short as he died of a heart attack. If you were reading SF between the early seventies and the late eighties, it’s likely that you saw his astonishing artwork. I found him doing covers for the Sphere edition of Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky, a Mayflower edition of Leiber’s Swords Against Death and a Methuen edition in Canada on Zelazny’s To Die in Italbar, but a few of the several hundred covers he did. There’s an excellent website for him here: http://www.peterelson.co.uk/ (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 13, 1952 Jonathan R. Eller, 67. Scholar, Ray Bradbury specialist in this case. Two full length works, Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound, plus some thirty shorter works including “Textual Commentary (The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition: Volume I: 1938-1943)” and “Annotations (Match to Flame: The Fictional Path to Fahrenheit 451)”.  He interviewed Bradbury twice, once in Cemetery Dance #65, listed as being published in 2011. 
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 59. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well.

(10) BROADWAY FANDOM’S ANNUAL GATHERING. BroadwayCon was held this weekend (January 11-13) in New York City. Martin Morse Wooster looked into it and learned, “It’s like a fan con, with parties, a dealer’s room, cosplay, and getting autographs but it’s for theater geeks in Manhattan!  So they have panels like ‘My Descent Into HAMILTON Fandom.’  I learned that fans of the musical Newsies are ‘Fansies.’  I think I would enjoy the ‘Shakespeare Lovers’ Meetup.’”

Wooster discovered this parallel fandom because Three on the Aisle,” a theater podcast he likes, did a live session there. He continues –

BroadwayCon is put on by Mischief Management and was co-founded by Melissa Anelli. She comes out of Harry Potter fandom and wrote Harry: A History, which I read and is an entertaining book if you want to read about really obsessed Harry Potter fans. Mischief Management’s other cons are Con of Thrones in Nashville for Game of Thrones fans and two LeakyCons for Harry Potter fans, which will be held this year in Dallas and Boston.

(11) WIN SOME, LOSE SOME. BBC says the end may be near: “Spektr-R: Russia’s only space telescope ‘not responding'”.

Russia’s only space radio telescope is no longer responding to commands from Earth, officials say.

Astro Space Centre chief Nikolai Kardashev said some of the Spektr-R satellite’s communication systems had stopped working.

But it was still transmitting scientific data, RIA Novosti news agency reports.

The telescope has been operational way beyond its expected five-year lifespan, Russia’s space agency Roskosmos says.

(12) STRUMMIN’ ON THE OLD BANJO. John Scalzi outlines his “Revenue Streams, 2018” for Whatever readers. Domestic and foreign sales, TV/movie options, speaking engagements, etc., and a little comic relief —

10. Download/Streaming payments on my music: Wait, what, now? Weirdly, it’s true! I have an album of music you can download or stream, and apparently people actually have or do, since the payments show up in my PayPal account. I made dozens of dollars with my music last year! Dozens!!!

(13) ON ANNIHLATION. Lessons from the Screenplay brings viewers “Annihilation — The Art of Self-Destruction.”

(14) SELF-PROPELLED MEALS ON WHEELS. Food & Wine enthuses about the “Fleets of Snack-Wielding Robots to Invade College Campuses”.

The days when hungry college students had to physically walk to the cafeteria (or the dorm room vending machine, or the corner convenience store) to get a snack are numbered. This week, PepsiCo unleashed a fleet of snack-wielding, self-driving robots across the University of the Pacific’s Stockton, California campus. If all goes well, college snack-bots could become a pretty common sight in the not-so-distant future. 

…The robots were made in collaboration with Bay Area-based Robby Technologies, who say of their creations: “the size and dimensions evoke feelings of a small pet walking down the street.” They’re not wrong! According to a press release, the kinda-cute delivery-bots can travel over 20 miles on a single charge, and are outfitted with cameras and headlights that allow them to navigate in full darkness or rain. They’re also equipped with all-wheel drive, which lets them climb steep hills and handle curbs without tipping over. 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/18/18 Just One Pixel Of Scrolls Is Better Than A Lifetime Alone

(1) NOT THE DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. A nice placeholder, though. Io9 sets the frame: “Doctor Who Saves Christmas (Again) in This Adorable Holiday Short”:

Doctor Who’s Twitter account has shared a cute animated holiday short telling the story of how the Doctor (voiced by Whittaker) helped save Christmas once again this year. Narrated by Bradley Walsh (Graham), the Twas The Night Before Christmas-style tale is all about Santa getting stuck in a jam after his sleigh breaks down. Who can he possibly call to save the day? The Doctor, of course!

(2) HARD SF. James Davis Nicoll dares to tell us about “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction That Bypass the Gatekeepers” at Tor.com.

….Still, I think there’s a gap between hard SF defined so narrowly only Hal Clement could be said to have written it (if we ignore his FTL drives) and hard SF defined so broadly anything qualifies provided the author belongs to the right social circles … that this gap is large enough that examples do exist. Here are five examples of SF works  that are, to borrow Marissa Lingen’s definition:

playing with science.

and doing so with a verisimilitude that’s not just plot-enabling handwaving….

(3) MYTHCON 50. Introducing artist Sue Dawe’s logo for Mythcon 50, with the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” The convention will take place August 2-5 in San Diego – register here

(4) TAFF NEWS. Avail yourself of the official Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund news – click to retrieve the PDF file: 

(5) CODE OF CONDUCT GUIDANCE. Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner have made available as a free download their book on Code of Conduct enforcement for those who put on conventions and conferences: “Free code of conduct enforcement book available now”.

You can now download a free book detailing how to enforce a code of conduct, “How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports,” written by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner and edited by Annalee Flower Horne. This comprehensive guide includes:

  • Basic code of conduct theory
  • How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report
  • In-depth discussion of relevant topics
  • Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 7 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits.

(6) NOT GOING TO DUBLIN 2019? Then a clue as to what you’ll be missing from the Science GoH is contained in this 1/2 hour BBC interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell. “Of course, if you are going to Dublin, then don’t listen to this,” warns SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “as there are spoilers.”

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Jocelyn Bell Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science – in the days when it was unusual enough for women to work, let alone make a discovery in astrophysics that was worthy of a Nobel Prize. As a 24-year old PhD student, Jocelyn spotted an anomaly on a graph buried within 100 feet of printed data from a radio telescope. Her curiosity about such a tiny detail led to one of the most important discoveries in 20th century astronomy – the discovery of pulsars – those dense cores of collapsed stars. It’s a discovery which changed the way we see the universe, making the existence of black holes suddenly seem much more likely and providing further proof to Einstein’s theory of gravity.

(7) FILMS THAT BELONG ON YOUR LIST. Looper says these are “The Best Fantasy Movies Everyone Missed In 2018.”

With major blockbusters and huge franchises taking up most of our attention these days, it can be easy to lose track of all the great releases sneaking by under the radar but these 2018 fantasy movies are well worth seeking out…

(8) TV HISTORY. Echo Ishii revisits another sff TV classic, The Stone Tape:

The Stone Tape was a television play broadcast by the BBC in 1972.

The Stone Tape begins with a man named Peter who is head of a research team for an electronics company. Like many of the characters in Beasts, the protagonist is not a pleasant person. Peter Brock, though likely very skilled at his job, is arrogant, self-absorbed, sexist, and condescending. Whereas someof the sexism and the bigoted comments may be a representation of the realities of the the business world (and TV) at the time, you are clearly meant not to like Peter Brock as a person which only amps up the unease surrounding the main plot….

(9) HOW FAR IS IT? Far out. Like, literally Far Freekin’ Out. A newly announced minor planet is the most distant known object in the Solar System (Phys.org: “Outer solar system experts find ‘far out there’ dwarf planet”). The body’s official name is 2018 VG18, but it’s nicknamed “Farout” and it’s current orbital distance is about 120 AUs.

A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System. It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for its extremely distant location, is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System’s most-famous dwarf planet.

(10) COMING YOUR WAY. The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie’s new fantasy novel, arrives February 26, 2019. “My library’s already let me reserve it,” says Daniel Dern.

(11) THE WISDOM OF P.L. TRAVERS. The Washington Post’s Jerry Griswold profiles Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, whom he interviewed for the Paris Review, saying that Travers “was the wisest woman I’ve ever met,” a deep student of Zen, and the author of novels about Mary Poppins that are much darker than the movies. “Disney tried to erase ‘Mary Poppins’ creator P.L. Travers. She’s still more fascinating than fiction.”.

…Travers was the wisest woman I’ve ever met. She was the second Western woman to study Zen in Kyoto, part of the inner circle of the famous mystic G.I. Gurdjieff and did yoga daily (an exotic practice in the 1970s). One afternoon in her Manhattan apartment, we had a conversation that would later appear in Paris Review. She spoke about the meanings of Humpty Dumpty, how her book “Friend Monkey” had been inspired by the Hindu myth of Hanuman, the Zen expression “summoned not created,” the sacredness of names in aboriginal cultures and a spiritual understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son. And as for linking “this store of wisdom and our modern life,” she lead me step by step through parallels between the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the myth of Persephone. It was one of the richest afternoons of my life.

As she often did, Travers emphasized that she “never wrote for children” but remained “immensely grateful that children have included my books in their treasure trove.” She thought her books appealed to the young because she had never forgotten her own childhood: “I can, as it were, turn aside and consult it.”

(11) NASA POSTERS. Bored Panda is a bit skeptical — “Turns Out NASA Creates Posters For Every Space Mission And They’re Hilariously Awkward” – but Michael J. Walsh says, “Contrary to the headline, I think many of them are really good.”

…However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit. And what’s a better way to do that other than throwing in some pop culture references? Fair warning the results are quite cringy, making it hard to believe that these images are actually real.

First on the list:

(12) DINJOS OBIT. Nigerian sff writer Emeka Walter Dinjos has died. Future Science Fiction Digest editor Alex Shvartsman paid tribute in “RIP Emeka Walter Dinjos”:

It is with a heavy heart that I must share the news that Emeka Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian writer of science fiction and fantasy whose novelette “SisiMumu” is featured in our first issue, passed away at the age of thirty-four on Wednesday, December 12.

Walter was admitted to the hospital a little over aweek ago, on the eve of his birthday. In his last Facebook post he shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed, writing “I once swore I would never find myself in a place like this.” He was quick to point out, “It’s just fatigue.Will probably be out in a few days.” But unfortunately he succumbed to complications related to unmanaged diabetes. Walter is survived by his siblings and extended family, to whom I extend deepest condolences on behalf of everyone at Future SF and his many friends in the SF/F community….

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of theMoon. (Say “Cheese!”)
  • December 18, 1957The Monolith Monsters hit theatres.
  • December 18, 1968 — Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew into theaters.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He is best remembered for perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook— a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939Michael Moorcock, 79. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well. Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection, Mother London and The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 72. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film wasn’t great… He’d repeated that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed along a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe BFG is simply wonderful. Haven’t seen Ready Player One so I’ll leave that up to y’all to opine on. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober,65. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 49. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers movie. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3000, James K. Polkin, and — oh really Casper — the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Sequels short, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad film. 

(15) GOOD PLACE/BAD PLACE. At Vice, D. Patrick Rodgers believes, “The Best Thing on TV This Year Was: ‘The Good Place’.”

The unseen presence of one character has haunted The Good Place from the beginning, lingering like one of Bad Janet’s legendary farts since the very first moments of the very first episode: Doug Forcett.

As we all know — at three seasons and 35 episodes in — the afterlife hinges on a cumulative point system, with good deeds adding to an individual’s point total and bad or selfish deeds subtracting. People with high enough point totals enter The Good Place, while those who don’t make the cut do the whole burn-for-eternity thing down in The Bad Place. Despite all the twists, developments, reveals, and red herrings of the uniquely sharp and wacky sitcom, one constant has remained: that only one mortal has figured out the system, and he did it while on a mushroom trip back in 1972.

“Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” opens with the song of the same name by the Mamas and the Papas’ “Mama” Cass Elliott, itself a 70s artifact that portends something darker than its sunny melody suggests —that life is short, and if we’re not careful, we’ll screw it up. We watch as some as-yet-unnamed character tends to a series of mundane tasks, his face hidden from view. But there’s something familiar about that grizzled-blond shock of hair we see only from behind. It belongs to someone we know. Turns out that’s doubly true, as the head we’re looking at is that of legendary comedic actor Michael McKean in character as the aforementioned Forcett, now several decades older and committed to obtaining the requisite number of Good Place points.

(16) MEMORIAL FOR A BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mashable brings us word that, “A delivery robot caught on fire at UC Berkeley, students then set up a vigil.” The KiwiBot was one of a fleet of over 100.

A KiwiBot, an automated food delivery robot which is present on UC Berkeley’s campus, caught fire on Friday afternoon.

In a post, the company explained the incident was due to a faulty battery which had been mistakenly installed instead of a functioning one. 

The errant battery started smoldering while the robot was idling, leading to smoke, then fire outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

“A member of the community acted swiftly toextinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher. Within moments ofthe incident occurring, it had already been contained,” the post read.

“The Berkeley Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to secure the scene, and doused the robot with foam ensuring there was no risk of re-ignition.”

Unsurprisingly, the fire was caught on both video and stills. Pics of the subsequent candlelight memorial also appeared online. Deliveries had been taking place by the bots since 2017 but were suspended following the fire. Since then, software has been updated to more closely monitor the battery state and the fleet is back in service.

(17) MOCKERY. This is the kind of promo I’d expect from JDA or Richard Paolinelli, except you’d have to take their books, too: “Popeyes is launching ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ for stressed travelers craving fried chicken”.

On Tuesday, the chicken chain announced that it is selling three-piece chicken-tenders meals packaged in “Emotional Support Chicken” carriers at Philadelphia International Airport. The special chicken will be available as supplies last starting Tuesday at the Popeyes location in Terminal C.

Emotional-support animals have been making headlines recently, as passengers have pushed for the ability to bring increasingly bizarre companions on flights.

The number of emotional-support animals traveling aboard commercial flights has jumped 74% from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017, according to trade group Airlines for America. In January, a woman tried to bring an emotional-support peacock on a United Airlines flight. And, in February, another woman said Spirit Airlines told her to flush her emotional-support hamster down the toilet.

(18) NICE TRY. Somehow the trash in the Pacific is moving faster than the catcher: “Creator Of Floating Garbage-Collector Struggling To Capture Plastic In Pacific”.

Slat’s system, a 10-foot skirt attached beneath an unmoored, 2000-foot-long plastic tube, takes advantage of the wind and waves to move through the Pacific Ocean. The system aims to collect plastic from the water’s surface, which would then be picked up every few months by a support vessel and transported back to land for recycling. The garbage trap uses solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas to communicate its position to Slat’s team and passerby vessels.

(19) MAYBE TOMORROW. “SpaceX And Blue Origin Scrub Rocket Launches, Dashing Hopes Of A 4-Launch Day” – NPR has the story.

Weather and other delays marred what had been anticipated as a banner day for space launches Tuesday, as both SpaceX and Blue Origin were forced to postpone launches that had been scheduled to take place within minutes of each other. Both companies say they will look at moving their launches to Wednesday morning.

(20) BANNED ARTWORK. The New York Times reports some work by international artists has been banned from a forthcoming exhibit at the Guangdong Museum of Art: “Their Art Raised Questions About Technology. Chinese Censors Had Their Own Answer.”

Artificial intelligence bots. 3-D printed human organs. Genomic sequencing.

These might seem to be natural topics of interest in a country determined to be the world’s leader in science and technology. But in China, where censors are known to take a heavy hand, several artworks that look closely at these breakthroughs have been deemed taboo by local cultural officials.

The works, which raise questions about the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, were abruptly pulled last weekend from the coming Guangzhou Triennial on the orders of cultural authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The artists, from Europe, Australia and the United States, were not given an official reason why their works were rejected for the show, which opens on Dec. 21 at the Guangdong Museum of Art. The pieces did not touch on the Tiananmen democracy crackdown of 1989, independence for Taiwan or Tibet or the private wealth of Chinese Communist Party leaders —topics that are widely known to be off-limits for public discussion in China.

As a result, some of the show’s curators and the affected artists havebeen left guessing as to why the works were banned. Their conclusion? The works were perhaps too timely, too relevant and therefore too discomforting for Chinese officials.

…The other banned works include “The Modular Body,” an online science fiction story about using human cells and artificial organs to create a living organism. Created by a Dutch artist, Floris Kaayk, the work is intended to raise questions about the potential for 3-D printing of human organs, about extending life with the help of technology and about the desire to design life from scratch.

(21) OUT OF THE BOT BUSINESS. Engadget reports “Sphero is done making licensed Disney bots like BB-8 and R2-D2”:

Say goodbye to Sphero’s cute BB-8 robot. In fact, say goodbye to all the company’s licensed products, including R2-D2, BB-9E and Cars’ Lighting McQueen. According to The Verge, Sphero plans to sell its remaining inventory of licensed toys, but it will no longer manufacture more once it runs out. Indeed, the products’ listings on Sphero’s website says “This is a legacy product and no longer in production.” The company isn’t just discontinuing the models, though: It’s ending its licensing partnerships completely, because it’s no longer worth dedicating resources for their production.

Sphero chief Paul Berberian explained that while the toys sold well when their tie-in movies were released, fewer and fewer people purchased them as the years went by. “When you launch a toy, your first year’s your biggest. Your second year’s way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny,” he said….

(22) ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS ASK. Rocco the parrot apparently knows how to get what he wants (BGR Media: “An intelligent parrot used Alexa to play music and order food from Amazon”).

An African grey parrot has made headlines recently for inadvertently making orders via his owner’s Amazon Echo. Originally reported via The Times of London [paywall], the parrot — whose name is Rocco — would mindlessly activate Alexa and have the virtual assistant tell jokes and play music. Rocco even tried to order a few items from Amazon, but the owner wisely had set up controls to prevent unauthorized purchases.

What makes the somewhat lighthearted story even more amusing is that Rocco previously had a stint living at the UK’s National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) but was kicked out — yes, kicked out — because he was swearing too much. As the old adage says, truth is stranger than fiction. Rocco was subsequently placed under the care of a NAWT employee named Marion Wischnewski whereupon he quickly started activating Alexa.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Elusis, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Paul Weimer.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/18 Have Space Suit — But No Visa; Can’t Travel

(1) DRAGON AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. Camestros Felapton found that the “Dragon Award Nominations Are Open Sort Of”  — the “sort of” meaning Camestros experienced the same thing that I did before I tried it out — the actual nominations page is updated for the 2019 awards, but the supporting pages (rules,etc.) are still loaded with last year’s information. They’ll inevitably fix that when they get around to it, I’m sure. No hurry.

(2) ANOTHER LOOK AT SFWA V. WOTF. Keffy R.M. Kehrli responded to Eric James Stone’s criticism of SFWA’s handling of the Writers of the Future Contest (linked the other day in Scroll item #1.) Kehrli’s thread begins here.

(3) A FEW WEE IMPROVEMENTS. In that alternate universe where Camestros Felapton is Doctor Who’s showrunner, here’s what he would have done differently — “Doctor Who: Changing Season 11”.

There are lots of good things to say about the 2018 season of Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker was great, it was often visually lovely, it took historical episodes seriously and to top it all Alan Cumming deftly eating the scenery.

In my list of least liked Doctor Who episode there is not a single one from the 2018 season but…

…the best episodes weren’t on the same level as the best episodes from previous seasons. What the season gained in consistency it lost in excellence.

I’m going to suggest some changes that I think would have given it a bit more oomph.

(4) SMELLIER ON THE INSIDE. TARDIS versus trashcan? Olav Rokne labeled his link, “The dumbest thing I have ever tweeted, And yet…I’m shockingly proud.” Thread starts here.

(5) SIXTIES SFF. The Library of America’s Fall 2019 offeringsinclude these volumes of genre interest:

American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s(two volumes)
Gary K. Wolfe, editor
Volume 1: Four Classic Novels1960–1966
Poul Anderson, TheHigh Crusade • Clifford D. Simak, Way Station • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon • Roger Zelazny, . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal]
Library of America #321 / ISBN 978-159853-501-3
Volume 2: Four Classic Novels 1968–1969
R. A. Lafferty, PastMaster • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise • Samuel R. Delany, Nova • Jack Vance, Emphyrio
Library of America #322 / ISBN 978-159853-502-0
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-635-5
September 2019

The tumultuous 1960s was a watershed decade forAmerican science fiction. As the nation raced to the moon, acknowledged masters from the genre’s “golden age” reached the height of their powers. As it confronted calls for civil rights and countercultural revolution, a “new wave”of brilliant young voices emerged, upending the genre’s “pulp” conventions with newfound literary sophistication—and female, queer, and non white authors broke into the ranks of SF writers, introducing provocative new protagonists and themes. In American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, editor Gary K. Wolfe gathers eight wildly inventive novels in a deluxe, two-volume collector’s set: Daniel Keyes’s heartbreaking Flowers for Algernon and Poul Anderson’s madcap time-travel novel The High Crusade; Clifford D. Simak’s Hugo Award-winning Way Station; Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award–winning . . . And Call Me Conrad (published in bookform as My Immortal), restored to a version that most closely approximates Zelazny’s original text; Joanna Russ’s Picnic on Paradise, a pioneering work of feminist SF, and Samuel R. Delany’s proto-cyberpunk space opera Nova; R. A. Lafferty’s quirky, neglected, utterly original Past Master; and Jack Vance’s haunting Emphyrio. Wolfe’s introduction offers a new view of the genre’s best, and a discussion of his selections, that ought to provoke rethinking and debate among fans and critics. (Wolfe’s new collection is a successor to American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, the two-volume set he edited for us in 2012.)

(6) RICHARD LUPOFF INTERVIEW. This is the intro to the Richard A. Lupoff: Master of Xero! Interview at Alter Ego #156 – text starts on page 20.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 13, 1925 Dick Van Dyke, 93. Seriously you think I wouldn’t write him up? Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.(No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.)  He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A.Fletcher in Dick Tracy.  He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes he has a role as Mr.Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 89. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does.That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly no one saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received. Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I saw he’s in Twelve Monkeys but I think I’ve deliberately forgotten that film and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A.MacAvoy, 69. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1984.  Loved her Black Dragon series. Other series include the Damiano, Lens of the World and Albatross. If memory serves me right, I read The Grey Horse at a time when I was obsessively into Irish myth and liked it a lot for its storytelling. 
  • Born December 13, 1954Emma Bull, 64. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer for the latter.  You can see it here. Oh, and the Faerie Queen is Emma herself.
  • She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50 and you can read the Green Man review of the CD / DVD combo they put out here.
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 64. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, taking her character Alanna through the trials training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers.That Erie’s, like most of work, is set is in Tortall, world akin to European Middle Ages. What I’ve seen of it I like a lot. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. 

(9) PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS. Jonathan Cowie writes: “SF2 Concatenation is gearing up now (before the Seasonal festive distractions) for its next seasonal edition to be posted mid-January.But the science part of its content will include…” —

A fuller figure has oft (rightly/or wrongly) been associated with US citizens and even SF fans.  But it seems as if the rest of the world is catching up and, indeed, over-taking!

Research just published today in the BMJ suggests that a number of countries’ restaurant meals have more calories than their counterparts in the US…

Modelling indicated that, except in China, consuming current servings of a full service and a fast food meal daily would supply between 70% and 120% of the daily energy requirements for a sedentary woman, without additional meals, drinks, snacks, appetizers, or desserts.

CONCLUSION
Very high dietary energy content of both full service and fast food restaurant meals is a widespread phenomenon that is probably supporting global obesity. This arguably needs to be addressed.

Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge now a mathematical formula

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1984 novel Icehenge depicts a long-lived future human society that forgets its recent past…  Now research published in Nature has revealed that in reallife events, concerns, music etc, decays from our cultural memory mathematically.

In addition to science, the forthcoming seasonal edition of SF2Concatenation will have SF news (relating to publishing, TV and film), forthcoming SF as well as fantasy book titles, and convention reports including this year’s Worldcon, plus another in a series of articles of scientist SF authors favourite scientists.

(10) STAN LEE CAMEO. [Item by Mike Kennedy. Vanity Fair: “Behind the Scenes of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Cameo”. Fair Warning: THE VANITY FAIR ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS, though none are (intentionally) included below. (Their spoiler warning appears immediately after the paragraphs quoted below.)

It won’t be his last, but it may be his best.

Though he died last month, Marvel Comics legend and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee pre-recorded several cameos for upcoming films before he passed—including a touching, animated appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Loaded with a heavy significance that resonates independent of his death, this emotionally resonant appearance is nothing like the zippy, superficial live-action and animated appearances Lee made in the past. That’s because the Spider-Verse filmmakers were determined to honor Lee’s legacy by breaking open narrow definitions of what it means to be a hero—and because of some personal events in Lee’s life that made his Into the Spider-Verse cameo particularly weighty. (The cameo also happens to be wickedly funny, which is part of Lee’s legacy as well.) The filmmakers—including Into the Spider-Verse’s three directors—took Vanity Fair behind the scenes of Lee’s appearance, as well as the in memoriam title card that closes out the film.

(11) A SPACE FIRST. BBC says they made it: “Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully reaches space”.

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back.

The firm’s SpaceShip Two passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin.

It marked the plane’s fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm’s space programme.

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

(12) BACK IN THE AREA CODE. It can be called a success once the data’s sent back — “Parker Solar Probe: Sun-skimming mission starts calling home”.

Just weeks after making the closest ever flyby of the Sun, Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe is sending back its data.

Included in the observations is this remarkable image of the energetic gas, or plasma, flowing out from the star.

The bright dot is actually far-distant Jupiter. The black dots are repeats that occur simply because of the way the picture is constructed.

Parker’s WISPR instrument acquired the vista just 27.2 million km from the surface of the Sun on 8 November.

(13) BOGUS BOT. Reminds me of the 19th-century chess-playing automaton. From the BBC: “Robot turns out to be man in suit”.

A robot on show at a Russian state-sponsored event has turned out to be a man dressed in a costume.

Robot Boris featured on Russian TV and was apparently able to walk, talk and dance.

But soon after its appearance journalists began to question the bot’s authenticity.

In a picture published afterwards on social media, the neck of a person was clearly visible

(14) HISTORY BELOW THE WATERLINE. “Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores”.

…The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed “hidden city”, through glass walls.

(15) SEASONS’ EATINGS. Visitors to the UK will have noticed their strangely-flavored potato chips, but the strangeness is spreading to pizza, croissants, and ham: “Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food”.

Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season.

The crisps are part of the supermarket chain’s festive food range, and have a distinct pine-like taste thanks to their pine salt seasoning, which is made with pine tree oil.

It is part of a wider trend for novel, sometimes bizarre fusion foods that has swept the UK over the last few years as retailers vie for our attention and our cash.

(16) WELL, SHEET. “Nasa’s IceSat space laser makes height maps of Earth” – BBC has the story.

One of the most powerful Earth observation tools ever put in orbit is now gathering data about the planet.

IceSat-2 was launched just under three months ago to measure the shape of the ice sheets to a precision of 2cm.

But the Nasa spacecraft’s laser instrument is also now returning a whole raft of other information.

It is mapping the height of the land, of rivers, lakes, forests; and in a remarkable demonstration of capability – even the depth of the seafloor.

“We can see down to 30m in really clear waters,” said Lori Magruder, the science team leader on the IceSat mission. “We saw one IceSat track just recently that covers 300km in the Caribbean and you see the ocean floor the entire way,” the University of Texas researcher told BBC News.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, StephenfromOttawa, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/6/18 By Grabthar’s Pixel, By The Scrolls Of Warvan, You Shall Be File’d

(1) SNAPPY JACKETS. BookRiot lists its choices for “The Best Book Covers of 2018”. Lots of genre book covers here. Two examples:

I love a cover with a flipped image, this one showing a well-dressed man and woman on one side and a bowler hat-wearing man bicycling on the other side. The colors and rainy arc of tree branches in the London mist makes me think of Mary Poppins (that scene with Mr. Banks, anyone?) and then all I want to do is put this book into my eyeballs.

—Aimee Miles

Any time someone mentions this book—which is often because it’s awesome—the cover vividly pops into my brain. It’s like a movie poster for a blockbuster that you just can’t wait to see, and then after you see it you put the poster up on your bedroom wall!

—Jamie Canaves

(2) ATMOSPHERICS. Out today, the Game of Thrones “Official Tease: Dragonstone.”

Fire and ice. The final season of Game of Thrones begins this April.

 

(3) AUREALIS AWARDS DEADLINE. Tehani Croft, Judging Coordinator of the Aurealis Awards, reminds everyone that entries close at midnight, Friday, December 7:

It’s important to remember that ALL eligible Australian work published for the first time between January 1 and December 31, 2018, must be entered by midnight on December 7even work intended for publication after the December 7 cut off.

When entries are made, you will receive an auto response from our system to acknowledge receipt (please check your spam folder if this does not arrive) – this is the only requirement for entries to be valid. Details regarding payment (for long form entries) and submission will follow in the coming week.

Thank you to everyone who has already submitted entries this year – the judges have appreciated a consistent flow of entries in a timely manner, which has helped avoid an end-of-year bottleneck.

(4) FOURTH ALLEGATION AGAINST TYSON. Buzzfeed News adds a new charge: “Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson’s First Accuser. Now There Are Three More.”

…Now a fourth woman has told BuzzFeed News her experience of sexual harassment from Tyson. In January 2010, she recalled, she joined her then-boyfriend at a holiday party for employees of the American Museum of Natural History. Tyson, its most famous employee, drunkenly approached her, she said, making sexual jokes and propositioning her to join him alone in his office. In a 2014 email shared with BuzzFeed News, she described the incident to her own employer in order to shoot down a proposed collaboration with Tyson….

(5) MORTAL PETER JACKSON. The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy renders his verdict: “‘Mortal Engines’: Film Review”.

A fantastical bit of steampunk sci-fi runs to a considerable extent on fumes in Mortal Engines, an action-loaded tale of adventure and combat set in a future that takes its design cues entirely from the past. Based on the initial book in a series of four by British author Philip Reeve, the first of them published in 2001, this new effort by Peter Jackson’s Wingnut Films is certainly lavish and expensive looking but never thoroughly locks in to capture the imagination or sweep you off to a new world where you particularly want to spend time. It’s combat-heavy, but not in an especially enthralling way, spelling an uncertain commercial future in the U.S. at least; foreign results could be significantly better.

One thing the film does have going for it is a resilient female lead, Hester Shaw (Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar), a survivor of childhood violence compelled to take revenge on her mother’s killer. Another is a bizarre form of conquest that’s illustrated in the extensive opening action sequence, in which one mobile society — in this case, a condensed version of London — races on giant treads across a rough wasteland in pursuit of a smaller, rag-tag community in order to literally gobble it up. There’s a milder, less demented Mad Max quality to the set-piece that decidedly rivets the attention, even if the sheer physics of it seem more than a bit preposterous; it’s akin to a huge garbage truck consuming a lawn mower.

(6) APPS AND TRAPS. Etelka Lehoczky says “Surrealism Meets Sci-Fi In ‘Parallel Lives'” in a review of this collection of short comics stories by O. Schrauwen and Eric Reynolds.

Parallel Lines is loosely a work of sci-fi. Most of its characters live at some time in the future, and all make use of rarified technologies. One woman communicates with a hologrammatic friend and lives in a coffin-sized pod. A team of explorers wend their way through outer space in a shimmering cubical ship. Schrauwen’s father Armand turns up in the book: He uses something called a Bomann Kühlbox T5000 to beam his face and voice to the future. (He finds it a frustrating experience, as the futurians ignore him in favor of seeking out exotic new ways of “leisuring.”) Schrauwen himself makes an appearance, too, in a first-person story of alien abduction that toys unsettlingly with the tropes of that genre.

(7) WHAT’S WRONG WITH WOKE “WHO”? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Lucy Jones of the Independent uses Doctor Who’s more inclusive storytelling — and the resultant backlash — as a framework to examine what it means to be “politically correct.” Her conclusion is pretty close to what most people on File 770 have been saying all along: that there’s nothing incorrect about telling stories that fully represent the diversity of society. “Doctor Who backlash shows why it’s time to bin the phrase ‘politically correct’”.

Words have consequences, and, in the rise of populism, these ones certainly have had, so instead of writing it off, I wanted to delve deeper into the Doctor Who criticism and try to understand what these swathes of shocked people online were outraged by, and if it had anything valuable to say about how people feel about changing societal and cultural norms.

(8) ARMITAGE OBIT. Peter Armitage (1940 – 2018): British actor, died December 4, aged 78. Screen appearances include Jack the Ripper (both episodes, 1988), Chimera (one episode, 1991), The Indiana Jones Chronicles (one episode, 1993), The Second Coming (both episodes, 2003), Magic Grandad (four episodes, 2003).

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 6, 1911 – Ejler Jakobsson, Writer and Editor born in Finland who emigrated to the U.S. as a teenager. Several short fiction works co-written with his wife Edith were published in the horror pulps in the late 1930s, and they co-edited two one-off magazines entitled The Octopus and The Scorpion. When Super Science Stories was revived briefly in 1949, he was editor for that two year run – with Damon Knight as his assistant. In 1969, he took over Galaxy and If, succeeding Frederik Pohl. With the assistance of Judy-Lynn and Lester del Rey, he worked to make the magazines more contemporary. Under his auspices, several Best of anthologies for both If and Galaxy were published, and Galaxy was a three-time finalist for the Hugo Award. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 6, 1924 – Wally Cox, Actor and Comedian. Who can resist the voice of the Underdog series, which ran from 1964 to 1967? I certainly can’t. He also appeared in the films Babes in Toyland,  Quarantined, and Once Upon a Mattress, and had guest parts in The Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible, Lost in Space, Get Smart, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and Night Gallery. Interestingly, he had a lifelong close friendship from childhood with Marlon Brando (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1938 – Patrick Bachau, 80, Actor, Writer, and Producer from Belgium who had parts in French-speaking genre films before crossing the ditch where he became known to genre fans for his four-year role as Sydney on The Pretender. He also played a main role in the miniseries Kindred: The Embraced, had guest parts in episodes of Alias, The Dead Zone, and Earth 2, and had roles in Jennifer Connelly’s genre film debut Phenomena, The Cell, Serpent’s Lair, Vampires: The Turning, the execrable The Rapture, and 2012: We Were Warned.
  • Born December 6, 1948 – JoBeth Williams, 70, Oscar-nominated Actor and Producer who graduated from university intending to become a child psychologist, but instead caught the acting bug. Genre fans will remember her for her Saturn-nominated role in Poltergeist and its sequel. Other genre films include The Day After, Endangered Species, Switch, TiMER, It Came from the Sky, and The World Beyond. She also played Marge Slayton in From the Earth to the Moon.
  • Born December 6, 1953 – Tom Hulce, 65, Oscar-nominated Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer. His first genre role was in a highly-praised performance as the lead in the American Playhouse broadcast of The Rise and Rise of Daniel Rocket, about a young boy who discovers that he can fly. Although the bulk of his career has been in the theater, his most notable genre film role was as Henry Clerval in Kenneth Branagh’s Saturn-nominated Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. He was nominated for an Annie Award for his voice performance of Quasimodo in Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and appeared in the films Stranger than Fiction and Jumper.
  • Born December 6, 1962 – Colin Salmon, 56, Actor from England who is best known for playing M’s Deputy Chief of Staff in three James Bond films, and as James “One” Shade in the Resident Evil film series. He has had roles in films including Alien vs. Predator, Tales from the Crypt, Punisher: War Zone, Annihilation: Earth, and Space Island One, and on television series including Arrow, Limitless, and the obligatory Doctor Who appearance (with David Tennant). He had a main role in the British series Hex, and currently plays General Zod in the Krypton series.
  • Born December 6, 1969 – Torri Higginson, 49, Actor and Producer who is almost certainly best known for her Saturn-nominated main role for four seasons as Dr. Elizabeth Weir on Stargate: Atlantis – but, like JJ, you may experience the lightbulb going on when you hear that her earliest genre role was as the female lead in Shatner’s TekWar series. She also had a main role in the supernatural series Inhuman Condition, and a recurring role in the deep space mystery series Dark Matter. Other appearances include Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, Stonehenge Apocalypse, The Cult, and episodes of Highlander: The Raven and The (new) Outer Limits.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity puts a smart weapon in Captain Kirk’s hands – or is that a smartass weapon?

(11) THEY’RE IN A RABBIT STEW. BBC One has put out a trailer for its adaptation of Watership Down. It will be released on Netflix on December 23, the day after it debuts on BBC One.

(12) MORAL EQUIVALENT OF WAR. M. Harold Page expounds on internet culture in “Worldbuilding Once and Future Fake News: Not Really A Review of Singer & Brooking’s LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media at Black Gate.

I’ve been reading LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media by Singer and Brooking. It describes the emerging world of Internet “news” where news passes from person-to-person on social media, no source is uncontroversially trustworthy, and where both information warriors and click-bait farmers are uninterested in the truth, except as a way of making untruths more plausible.

In this world, what determines a narrative’s success is not veracity but rather: Simplicity; Resonance; and Novelty.

Just switch the arena to “rumor” and this looks awfully like a greatly accelerated version of the pre-modern — especially Medieval and Renaissance — milieus we use as inspiration for Fantasy worldbuilding.  Keep the rumor but return the tech, and it’s also a good jumping-off point for building a Space Opera future. Stay with me and I’ll explain. But first, back to the smoking ruins of Limoges.

(13) THE FAR SIDE OF THE MOON. Nature reports a Chinese spacecraft will soon make the first visit: “Journey to the far side of the Moon” [PDF file].

Early in the New Year, if all goes well, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e-4 will arrive where no craft has been before: the far side of the Moon. The mission is scheduled to launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan province on 8 December. The craft, comprising a lander and a rover, will then enter the Moon’s orbit, before touching down on the surface.

If the landing is successful, the mission’s main job will be to investigate this side of the lunar surface, which is peppered with many small craters. The lander will also conduct the first radio astronomy experiments from the far side of the Moon — and the first investigations to see whether plants will grow in the low-gravity lunar environment…

(14) MORE MUPPET MUSIC. Lyndsey Parker, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story, “Paul Williams unearths lost ‘Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas’ Muppet soundtrack: ‘One of my favorite things I’ve ever done'”, says that Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which hasn’t been seen since its broadcast on HBO in 1977, is about to be released in theaters later this month.  Paul Williams talks about his song “When The River Meets The Sea,” which was played at Jim Henson’s funeral in 1990 and which he thinks is one of his best works.

When songwriting legend Paul Williams met Muppets mastermind Jim Henson in 1976, after appearing on The Muppet Show, the fateful encounter led to a long and fruitful musical partnership, highlighted by Williams’s Oscar-nominated theme for The Muppet Movie, “Rainbow Connection.”

But it all started with the 1977 HBO cult classic Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, which will be screened in theaters nationwide for the first time ever this month, on Dec. 9 and 16. And incredibly, Williams’s twangy Emmet Otter soundtrack has finally been officially released, just in time for this holiday season, with a previously unreleased song, “Born in a Trunk,” that didn’t make it to air.

(15) FRUIT FLIES LIKE A… MARULA? NPR reveals “When And Where Fruit Flies First Bugged Humans”.

A study published Thursday suggests Drosophila melanogaster first shacked up with humans when the insects flew into the elaborately painted caves of ancient people living in southern Africa.

That’s according to a report published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.

Scientists say the flies would have been following the alluring smell of stored marula fruit, which were collected and stored by cave-dwelling people in Africa. This tasty yellow fruit was a staple in the region in those days — and was also the fruit that wild flies apparently evolved to depend on in nearby forests.

The humble fruit fly now lives with humans all over the planet and is one of the world’s most studied creatures. For more than a century, biology and medical laboratories have depended on this fly — one scientist notes that at least nine times, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded for research on Drosophila….

(16) STONE FAT: Harder to lose than cellulite! “Fossil preserves ‘sea monster’ blubber and skin”.

Scientists have identified fossilised blubber from an ancient marine reptile that lived 180 million years ago.

Blubber is a thick layer of fat found under the skin of modern marine mammals such as whales.

Its discovery in this ancient “sea monster” – an ichthyosaur – appears to confirm the animal was warm-blooded, a rarity in reptiles.

The preserved skin is smooth, like that of whales or dolphins. It had lost the scales characteristic of its ancestors.

The ichthyosaur’s outer layer is still somewhat flexible and retains evidence of the animal’s camouflage pattern.

The reptile was counter-shaded – darker on the upper side and light on the underside. This counter-balances the shading effects of natural light, making the animal more difficult to see.

(17) NO LONGER SF. Remember to tip your avatar: “Japanese cafe uses robots controlled by paralysed people”.

A cafe staffed by robot waiters controlled remotely by paralysed people has opened in Tokyo, Japan.

A total of 10 people with a variety of conditions that restrict their movement have helped control robots in the Dawn Ver cafe.

The robot’s controllers earned 1,000 yen (£7) per hour – the standard rate of pay for waiting staff in Japan.

It is hoped the project will give more independence to people with disabilities.

(18) A WORD FROM SOMEBODY’S SPONSOR. We’ve come a long way from the one-room schoolhouse. I suppose in another generation they’ll be saying we’ve come a long way from the one-robot schoolroom.

The Belgian company Zora Bots is currently conquering the world with its unique solution especially designed for humanoid robots. Now, Zora Bots is about to change the way education system prepares the future generations to the ongoing technology revolution. In Belgium, a new step has just been made in that field with the support of Zora solutions. Comitted in an ambitious digitilization program, the town of Ostend (West Flanders) becomes today the first smart city in Europe to equip all its secondary schools with a humanoid robot. That means no student in secondary cycle will be deprived of having his first coding experience with a robot.

(19) MAKING A POINT: BBC tells about “The Indian restaurants that serve only half a glass of water”.

At the pure vegetarian Kalinga restaurant, a couple have just been seated when a waiter approaches their table and asks if they want water.

“I said yes and he gave me half a glass of water,” says Gauripuja Mangeshkar. “I was wondering if I was being singled out, but then I saw that he had only poured half a glass for my husband too.”

For a moment, Ms Mangeshkar did wonder whether her glass was half full or half empty, but the reason why she was served less water was not really existential.

Nearly 400 restaurants in Pune have adopted this measure to reduce water use, ever since the civic authorities announced cuts in supply a month ago.

[Thanks to Mark Hepworth, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Steve Green, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 10/31/18 Niels Pixel’s Underground Scrolls

(1) REALLY AND SINCERELY DEAD. [Item by Bill.] Harry Houdini died 92 years ago today:

The Official Houdini Seance will be held this year in Baltimore at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. The event will feature talks by Houdini experts and performances by magicians. The museum is currently home to the exhibition Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. Note: This event is SOLD OUT.

Although his fame was based on his magic and escapes, he was genre-adjacent:

  • His movie serial Master Mystery (1919) featured Q the Mechanical Man, one of the first robots on film.

  • In his film The Man from Beyond (1922), he plays a man frozen in ice in 1820 and revived in 1922.

  • He had a couple of pieces of fiction published in Weird Tales (ghost-written by H. P. Lovecraft).

(2) WEAR YOUR HALLOWEEN COSTUME TO WORK. This won the Internet today:

(3) CANDY CONVERTER. Here’s what you all are going to be looking for later tonight – from Adweek, “Reese’s Halloween Vending Machine Lets You Exchange Trash Candy for the Good Stuff”.

According to the Food Network, the machines had their maiden voyage on October 27 in Tarrytown, New York, birthplace of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, at the town’s big annual Halloween parade. And on Halloween, October 31, Reese’s will set up a Candy Exchange Vending Machine in New York City, so New Yorkers can ditch whatever candy they’re not that into for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

(4) SERIOUS SCIENTIFIC CANDY TALK. From LAist, “LAist’s Ultra Scientific Halloween Candy Ranker Proves Reese’s Is The Best Candy Bar Ever”.

(5) BLACK PANTHER ON HALLOWEEN. Michael Cavna and David Betancourt in the Washington Post ask if it’s all right for white kids to dress as characters from Black Panther for Halloween, with many white parents bothered by this but African-Americans such as director Reg Hudlin and Black Panther costume director Ruth E. Carter told him, “Yes, any kid can wear a Black Panther costume, say creators who helped shape the character”.

SINCE FEBRUARY, when Disney/Marvel’s smash “Black Panther” first captured not only audience attention but also the cultural zeitgeist, reporters have been asking the question: Which kids are permitted to don the superhero costume from the fictional African nation of Wakanda?

Or as Joshua David Stein wondered in a column at the time for Fatherly: “Should I allow my white son to dress as a black superhero?”

Jen Juneau wrote on People.com this month: “Parents of white children may want to think twice before purchasing a Black Panther Halloween costume this year.” And Steph Montgomery, writing this month for the online publication Romper, said: “I don’t think it’s appropriate for my white children to dress up as main characters T’Challa and Shuri, or the members of Dora Milaje — the badass women special forces of Wakanda.

…But in interviews with The Washington Post, several creators who have helped shape the Black Panther character, along with other prominent authors who have written characters of color, are adamant: Any kid can dress as Black Panther.

“The idea that only black kids would wear Black Panther costumes is insane to me,” said Reg Hudlin, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker who has worked on Wakanda-set projects for both the page and screen, including the animated TV miniseries “Black Panther.” “Why would anyone say that?”

…Ruth E. Carter, the Oscar-nominated costume designer (“Malcolm X,” “Amistad”), created the beautifully intricate attire for Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” drawing inspiration from not only the comics but also from real-world designs in Africa.

She says the point in creating such Afrofuturistic art is to build not barriers but, rather, cultural bridges — and so fans should embrace that the world of Black Panther is “taking its royal place in the vast Comic-Con and cosplayer universe.”

So why are people posing this question over T’Challa now, Carter says rhetorically.

“The only reason we’re asking that question now is because the Black Panther is a black man. And I think that’s what’s wrong with people — that’s what’s wrong with parents,” Carter said. “Because I see kids far and wide embracing the concept of a superhero. I believe they see him as someone who is majestic and powerful and doing good, and has a kingdom and a legacy and is pretty cool. I don’t think they see a black guy — I think they see the image of a superhero,” she added, and “it happens to be the Black Panther just as it happens to be Superman.”

(6) FUTURE TENSE. Each month in 2018, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives— is publishing a story on a theme.

This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is: “Burned-Over Territory” by Lee Konstantinou.

I’m halfway through a plate of soggy risotto, giving my opinion about the Project Approval Framework, when my phone buzzes. I thought I’d muted notifications. I’m tempted to check the alert, but 30 faces are watching me, all Members, some from Zardoz House, the rest from other Houses around Rochester. We’re at a table made from reclaimed wood, which is covered with food and drink. It’s freezing. Everyone’s wearing sweaters, hats, coats, scarves, mittens; I’m in a blue blazer over a T-shirt, jeans, and leather boots. My hair is buzzed into a crew cut, and even though it makes me feel like an ass clown, I’m wearing makeup….

It was published along with a response essay, “What Problem Is Universal Basic Income Really Trying to Solve?”, by UBI advocate Sebastian Johnson.

…Many policy advocates and technologists have promoted universal basic income, or UBI, as one way to cope with the specter of joblessness wrought by advances in artificial intelligence. UBI would provide each individual with a no-strings-attached payment each month to cover basic needs and prevent individuals from falling below the poverty line. The benefits of UBI, according to proponents, would include the elimination of poverty, the fairer distribution of technologically generated wealth, and human flourishing. Critics are less sanguine, variously seeing in UBI a Trojan horse for dismantling the welfare state, an ill-considered policy that will sap humans of the self-actualization and pride derived from work, and a wholly inadequate response to the structural problems with late capitalism….

(7) WATCH THE WATCH. Deadline reports “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Adaptation ‘The Watch’ Lands At BBC America”.

The U.S. cable network describes the show as a “punk rock thriller” inspired by the City Watch subset of Discworld novels. The character-driven series centers on Terry Pratchett’s misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalized wrongness, from both the past and future in a perilous quest.

The Watch features many Discworld creations including City Watch Captain Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot Ironfoundersson, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious forensics expert Cheri together with Terry Pratchett’s iconic characterization of Death…

(8) KEPLER OBIT. Phys.org bids farewell to an exoplanet pioneer: “Kepler telescope dead after finding thousands of worlds”.

NASA’s elite planet-hunting spacecraft has been declared dead, just a few months shy of its 10th anniversary.

Officials announced the Kepler Space Telescope’s demise Tuesday.

Already well past its expected lifetime, the 9 1/2-year-old Kepler had been running low on fuel for months. Its ability to point at distant stars and identify possible alien worlds worsened dramatically at the beginning of October, but flight controllers still managed to retrieve its latest observations. The telescope has now gone silent, its fuel tank empty.

“Kepler opened the gate for mankind’s exploration of the cosmos,” said retired NASA scientist William Borucki, who led the original Kepler science team.

Kepler discovered 2,681 planets outside our solar system and even more potential candidates.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

They were out there on Halloween 1936 to try what few people at the time had tried: lighting a liquid rocket engine. It took them four attempts to get a rocket to fire for a glorious three seconds — though an oxygen hose also broke loose and sent them scampering for safety as it thrashed around.

  • October 31, 1962The First Spaceship On Venus premiered at your local drive-in.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 – Art Saha, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom who is credited with coining the term “Trekkies”. After becoming an editor at DAW books, he edited 8 volumes of The Year’s Best Fantasy, and, with Donald Wollheim, 19 volumes of The Annual World’s Best SF. He also edited the souvenir program book for the 1977 Worldcon and was a co-editor of the fanzine Parnassus. He was president of First Fandom and the NY Science Fiction Society (the Lunarians), chaired a number of Lunacons, and was named to the First Fandom Hall of Fame in 1992.
  • Born October 31, 1930 – Michael Collins, 88, Astronaut and Test Pilot who was the Command Module pilot for Apollo 11 while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to become the first astronauts on the moon. He later served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, then went on to be director of the National Air and Space Museum, before becoming undersecretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Born October 31, 1937 – Jael, 81, Artist, Illustrator, and Fan whose work has appeared in books, magazines, and calendars. She became interested in producing speculative art after attending a symposium on contact with aliens and meeting writers C J Cherryh, Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle. In her 50-year career, she has created more than 38,000 paintings and images, many of which are housed in public and private collections. She has received eight Chesley Award nominations, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions.
  • October 31, 1941 – Dan Alderson, Rocket Scientist and Fan who worked for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he wrote the navigation software for Voyagers 1 and 2, as well as trajectory monitoring software for low-thrust craft which was used for decades. He was a member of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society, an Official Editor of the comic book APA CAPA-alpha, and an early member of gaming fandom. He died of complications of diabetes at the far-too-young age of 47, but has been immortalized as “Dan Forrester” in Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer.
  • Born October 31, 1950 – John Franklin Candy, Actor and Comedian from Canada best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, as well as appearing in Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, Splash, Heavy Metal, Boris and Natasha, and the hilarious alt-history Canadian Bacon (one of JJ’s favorites). He was the narrator of “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” for Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. His talents were lost to the world far too early when he passed away in his sleep at the age of 43.
  • Born October 31, 1959 – Neal Stephenson, 59, Writer and Game Designer who is well known for doorstopper-length, award-nominated science fiction novels, including The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, Anathem, the Baroque Cycle trilogy, Snow Crash, and the hotly-debated Seveneves. His works have been translated into numerous languages and have won Hugo, Clarke, Prometheus, Premio Ignotus, Kurd Laßwitz, and Prix Imaginaire Awards. This year he was recognized with the Robert A. Heinlein Award, which recognizes authors who produce exceptional works promoting space exploration.
  • Born October 31, 1961 – Peter Jackson, 57, Writer, Director, and Producer from New Zealand whose most famous genre works are the spectacular Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, as well as The Frighteners, King Kong, The Lovely Bones, and the upcoming Mortal Engines. His use of the NZ-based Weta Workshop for his films has helped turn that firm into a computer graphics and special-effects powerhouse now known for their work on many Hollywood blockbusters.
  • Born October 31, 1982 – Justin Chatwin, 36, Actor from Canada who was the principal guest star in the rather delightful 2016 Doctor Who Christmas special “The Return of Doctor Mysterio”. He’s also been in War of The Worlds, Dragonball Evolution, and The Invisible; had recurring roles in the Orphan Black and American Gothic series; and appeared in episodes of The Listener, Lost, Smallville, Mysterious Ways, and Night Visions.
  • Born October 31, 1979 – Erica Cerra, 39, Actor from Canada who is best known for her portrayal of Deputy Jo Lupo on the Eureka series, but has extensive genre credentials which include recurring roles on Battlestar Galactica and The 100, and guest parts in episodes of Supernatural, The 4400, Smallville, The Dead Zone, Warehouse 13, iZombie, Reaper, Dead Like Me, Special Unit 2, and Sanctuary. You get to guess how many were filmed in Vancouver, BC…
  • Born October 31, 1994 – Letitia Michelle Wright, 24, Guyanese-born British Actor who, in just 8 short years, has built a substantial genre resume including a recurring role in the TV series Humans and guest parts in the Doctor Who episode “Face the Raven” and the Black Mirror episode “Black Museum”, for which she received an Emmy Award nomination. Her genre film credits include a Saturn-nominated role as Shuri in Black Panther (a character which will be the subject of a new comic book series by Hugo winner Nnedi Okorafor), Ready Player One, Avengers: Infinity War, and the upgoming Avengers sequel.

(11) WIMPY BOOK TOUR. Christina Barron in the Washington Post says that Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney, rather than a traditional book tour, is having “Wimpy Kid Live: The Meltdown Show,” with “costumes, cartooning, and the chance to stump the author on Wimpy Kid trivia: “Jeff Kinney puts on a show to launch new ‘Wimpy Kid’ book”.

Considering “The Meltdown” is Number 13 in the series, you might expect Kinney’s next book to be “Diary of a Weary Writer.” But instead of slowing down, the author is changing up what he does when he meets his many fans. He’s doing a few typical talks and book signings, but Kinney is also putting on a show.

“We thought it would be really fun to change the idea of what a book signing is,” Kinney said in a recent phone conversation.

(12) AGITPROP. The Hollywood Reporter takes note when a “’Rehire James Gunn’ Billboard Appears Near Disneyland”:

On Monday, a digital billboard popped up in Garden Grove, California, at an intersection just over four miles away from Disneyland in Anaheim. The billboard, which reads “Save the Galaxy: James Gunn for Vol. 3,” was paid for via a GoFundMe campaign that has raised nearly $5,000 since launching last month. The campaign sprang from the minds of a group of fans who organized online soon after Disney fired Gunn as director of Guardians 3 on July 20, after conservative personalities resurfaced old tweets in which the filmmaker joked about rape and pedophilia.

(13) SUMMER SCARES. The Horror Writers Association announced its “Summer Scares Reading Program”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA), in partnership with United for Libraries, Book Riot, and Library Journal/School Library Journal, has launched a reading program that provides libraries and schools with an annual list of recommended horror titles for adult, young adult (teen), and middle grade readers. The goal is to introduce new authors and help librarians start conversations with readers that will extend beyond the books from each list and promote reading for years to come.

Each year, a special guest author and a committee of four librarians will select 3 recommended fiction titles in each of 3 reading levels (Middle Grade, Teen, and Adult), for a total of 9 Summer Scares selections. The goal of the program is to encourage a national conversation about the entire horror genre, across all age levels, at libraries all over the country and ultimately get more adults, teens, and children interested in reading. Official Summer Scares designated authors will also be available to appear, either virtually or in person, at public and school libraries all over the country, for free.

The committee’s final selections will be announced on February 14— National Library Lover’s Day. Some or all of the authors of those titles will appear on kickoff panels during Librarian’s Day at StokerCon each year.

(14) CIXIN LIU ADAPTATION. At The Verge, Weekend Editor Andrew Liptak seems to be taken with the teaser trailer for the Chinese film The Wandering Earth, an adaptation of a Cixin Liu story. (“The Wandering Earth could be China’s breakout sci-fi blockbuster film”) The movie appears to be the first in a proposed six-film franchise.

China isn’t typically known for its science fiction blockbusters, but a new trailer for an upcoming film called The Wandering Earth has all the hallmarks of a big, Hollywood-style genre movie: it features a dramatic story of the Earth in peril, complete with eye-popping scenes of spaceships escaping Earth.

The Wandering Earth is based on a story by Cixin Liu, the author best known for The Three-Body Problem, and, more recently, Ball Lightning. In the original story, scientists discovered that the sun is on the verge of turning into a red giant, and when it does, it’ll expand beyond the orbit of Mars, incinerating all of the solar system’s potentially habitable planets. They concoct a desperate plan to move Earth out of the solar system to a new star, Proxima Centauri.

 

(15) NOT GOING AT NIGHT. Popular Science raised a cheer because “NASA’s Parker Solar Probe just smashed two all-time records on its way to the sun”. The Parker Solar Probe has broken records as the fastest moving manmade object (relative to the Sun) and the closest manmade object to the Sun. Over a series of orbits, the perihelion will get progressively closer to the Sun, until the PSP dips into the solar corona.

The corona paradoxically burns millions of degrees hotter than the surface of the star itself, despite extending millions of miles into space. NASA expects that Parker will directly sample this unexplored zone on its 22nd orbit, which will take place in about six years.

Until then it will continue to best its own speed and closest approach records, which McDowell says is a fitting update to the largely overlooked legacy of Helios 1 and 2. “The great 1970s space probes, the really ambitious ones, there were three pairs: Viking, Voyager, and Helios. You’ve heard of Viking and Voyager, but you’ve never heard of Helios,” [astrophysicist Jonathon] McDowell says. Its measurements of the solar wind and magnetic field didn’t capture the public’s imagination in the same way as its camera-bearing cousins did, he suggests, but its speed record stood for nearly 42 years nonetheless.

(16) THE OLD EQUATIONS. Geek Tyrant can’t wait: “Anna Kendrick Heads To Mars in a New Sci-Fi Film Called STOWAWAY”.

Anna Kendrick is set to star in a new sci-fi thriller from XYZ Films called Stowaway. We’ve never really seen Kendrick in a sci-fi film before, so it’s cool to see her try something new.

Stowaway follows “the crew of a spaceship headed to Mars that discovers an accidental stowaway shortly after takeoff. Too far from Earth to turn back and with resources quickly dwindling, the ship’s medical researcher (Kendrick) emerges as the only dissenting voice against the group consensus that has already decided in favor of a grim outcome.”

(17) WOMEN OF THE GALAXY. A new book shows off badass female characters from the Star Wars universe (Polygon: “New art showcases the badassest women in the Star Wars universe”). The hardcover is a 30 October release from Chronicle Books and features a foreword by producer Kathleen Kennedy. It lists for $29.95.

Women of the Galaxy, a new art book examining female characters from every corner of the Star Wars universe, is exactly the kind of thing I would have read cover to cover twice in one sitting if you’d given it to me when I was nine.

From Jedi Master Aayla Secura to bounty hunter Zam Wesell, each alphabetical entry features art from a group of 18 women illustrators, as well as an explanation of the character’s history from Nerdist and StarWars.com writer Amy Ratcliffe. And with more than 70 characters in the book, there’s bound to be someone in here you’ve never heard of, but wish you had.

(18) DINO SUIT. Here’s our chance to test who are the most ferocious predators, Jurassic Park dinos or Hollywood lawyers: “‘Jurassic World’ Campaign to “Save the Dinos” Sparks $10M Lawsuit”

The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom campaign to “Save the Dinos” has sparked a $10 million trademark infringement and breach of contract lawsuit against producers.

Frederick Zaccheo of The Dinosaur Project claims filmmakers breached their contract with him by using the slogan on merchandise.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday in New York federal court, lawyers for Universal and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment contacted Zaccheo requesting his consent to use his trademarked phrase. They paid him $50,000 for the right to use it in advertising for the film and promised not to use it in connection with clothing or to promote any charity, specifically animal rights, endangered species and environmental causes. They also agreed that the slogan must always be used with Jurassic Park franchise branding.

“In the months leading up to the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Defendants launched a multi-faceted advertising and marketing campaign centered around the theme of saving the fictional dinosaurs on the fictional island from the fictional volcano,” writes attorney Hillel Parness in the complaint. “To that end, Defendants created the ‘Dinosaur Protection Group,’ a fictional organization run by the character of Claire Dearing from the first Jurassic World film and portrayed by Bryce Dallas Howard.”

The campaign included a Dinosaur Protection Group website and social media sites and featured an Adopt-A-Dinosaur contest which offered Save the Dinos merchandise as prizes. (See the complaint below for screenshots.)

(19) ORLY? Camestros Felapton was surprised to hear the founder of Infogalactic touting it as a success: “Voxopedia Again”.

…What had caught my interest was that much of the content was actually about Voxopedia, the vanity Wikipedia project that’s just like Wikipedia but out of date and with nonsense attached. I was curious because manifestly as a project it has failed and clearly at some point it will be abandoned. I had assumed that it had already slipped into a zone of lack-of-interest as newer, shinier projects competed for attention*. But it seems not. rather Vox was holding up Voxopedia as a shining example of how he has all the experience he needs to run a social network.

Now note, currently Voxopedia has about 6-10 active editors or whom only two really are doing any work, two of whom are just feuding conspiracy theories maintaining their own separate (and incompatible) conspiracy pages, one of whom is engaged  in a personal campaign to document all things about Englebert Humperdinck (and nothing else) and one of whom is doing nothing but write hate pieces about transgender people….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Halloween: John Locke vs. The Zombies” on YouTube, American Enterprise Institute fellow Jonah Goldberg explains why political philosopher John Locke would support killing zombies during a zombie apocalypse.

[Thanks to Bill, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Lise Andreasen.]